“People do not need to know that pastors are human just like them. They need to know we are godly. They need to know we are Christlike. They need to know we are humble. They need to know we are faithful. People, both within the church and outside of it, need pastors who are men of God. This has nothing to do with your title or the way you dress of how spiritual you are on the platform. Real pastors do not merely act or talk or look a certain way. They live a certain way; they are a certain way. Of course, pastors are not perfect. We are in need of God’s grace just as much as the people we minister to are. But our high calling demands a firm commitment to live godly lives. As pastors, we should live in such a way that people would not only know we are pastors if we told them. Yet once we tell them, they should not be surprised.” (H. B. Charles, Jr. in On Pastoring)
“Ambitious and self-seeking Christian workers, like the priest and the Levite, pass by on the other side of the street in order to devote themselves to a higher stratum of society. They are not willing to keep teaching the elements of the gospel to simple believers, or to endeavor to encourage backsliders onto the narrow way. They want a ministry more worthy of their powers.
Jesus, however, found delight and satisfaction in stooping to serve those whom most choose to ignore. His skillful, loving care caused the broken reed once again to produce heavenly music and fanned the dimly burning wick into a glowing flame. He never entirely crushed of concerned the penitent. It is noble work to care for those whom the world ignores.” (J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Discipleship)
This morning I read through Luke 5 and was immediately struck by verses 12-16, describing Jesus’ ministry:
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Did you see that? Jesus’ fame had spread to the point that great crowds gathered to hear him and be healed by him…BUT he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
I dare say that the majority of pastors would love to have the “problem” of great crowds gathering at their church. In fact, most of us spend our entire ministries trying to get great crowds to come and hear us preach. After all, that is the American version of “success” in church life. We celebrate and come dangerously close to worshipping pastors of large churches with large buildings and large budgets. And in the deep dark corners of our souls we desperately want to be that pastor that is celebrated/worshipped.
But, Jesus left the crowds, retreated to a desolate place and prayed. In the very moments when Jesus could have capitalized on his “success” he walked away from it often to spend time with his heavenly Father. The reason is clear…intimacy with our heavenly Father is success. There is absolutely nothing more important, in the life of a pastor, than stepping away from the busyness of ministry so that we can spend intimate time with our heavenly Father.
This was a great reminder for me on this Monday morning: An empty well is of no value to people longing for a drink. We are emptied in the busyness of ministry but filled in times of intimacy with our heavenly Father. Our people need us to step away so that ministry does not kill our intimacy!
John Piper offers this helpful advice to pastors about reading:
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we should limit our reading to quick shots one or two time a day. But if you will use severe discipline to make regular short appointments with a given book, you can live in another great mind more than you thought you could – beyond the more extended times you set aside for study and sermon preparation.
Nor do I want to give the impression that I think there is virtue in reading many books. In fact one of my greatest complaints in seminary was that professors trained students in bad habits of superficial reading because they assigned too many books. I agree with Spurgeon: “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” God save us from the allurement of “keeping up with Pastor Jones” by superficial skimming. Forget about “keeping up.” It only feeds pride and breeds spiritual barrenness. Instead devote yourself to boring in and going deep. There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books! Your people will know if you are walking with the giants (as Warren Wiersbe says) or watching television. (John Piper in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals)
I have had the privilege of serving as a pastor and church staff member for the past 5.5 years. The honest truth is that it has been a blast. However, one thing about serving in this capacity is that I dread Mondays. In fact I hate Monday mornings! If you are not a pastor but want a glimpse of what Mondays are like for those of us serving the local church check out Perry Noble’s description here.
By the way, if you are a member of a local church please don’t call and blast your pastor on Monday. Give him a day to come out of the fog so that he can be a little more clear-headed as he addresses complaints or problems. I am thankful to have served at two churches where this has not been a problem but have heard horror stories from some fellow pastors. In fact, step up and commit to pray for your pastor and pastoral staff each Monday as they walk through the fog.
This may sound a bit strange but I have identified some coping mechanisms that help me navigate through Mondays. I’m sure these are not original with me but I thought it would be helpful to compile them here not only to help other pastors but also to remind me as I try to navigate through the fog known as Mondays. Feel free to print this list out and give it to your pastor or send him the link.
6 Practical Steps For Pastors On Mondays
1. Sleep In. I know this may sound counter intuitive in our productivity minded culture but sleeping in on Monday mornings can be a huge help in fighting through the fog. If it is not possible to sleep in on Monday morning at least take a nap on Sunday afternoon. An extra hour or two of sleep can make a world of difference in your day.
2. Draw Close To Jesus Through His Word. The easiest thing to fall through the cracks while navigating through the fog of Mondays is time in God’s Word. I have been there. The spiritual high of singing about and studying God’s Word on Sundays can leave us with the impression that we have a “full tank” on Monday. You and I need the Word daily even when we think we don’t.
3. Get Some Exercise. One of the best things I have done on Mondays is make exercise a priority. This is tough because I usually don’t feel like going for a run on Mondays even though I know it makes a big impact in my day. Studies show that vigorous exercise releases endorphins in our body, which boost our mood and happiness.
4. Read Something For Your Soul. In addition to reading God’s Word on Mondays, I have found it beneficial to read a book for my soul. I need to be reminded of the gospel every day but especially on Mondays. My worth and identity is not wrapped up in who I am as a pastor and what happened at church on Sunday but in who I am in Christ. Find some authors that drive your thoughts to the gospel message and your true identity.
5. Call A Friend/Mentor Who Will Encourage You. I have several friends/mentors in full-time vocational ministry that I often call for encouragement. Fellow pastors know the struggle Mondays can be and I find it extremely helpful to encourage one another to fulfill the ministry to which God has called us. Find a friend/mentor who will encourage you through the fog.
6. Stay Away From Making Big Decisions. A mentor of mine who is a pastor gave me this advice and it has been gold. Never make big decisions when you are tired or in the fog of ministry. Since Mondays are often foggy I stay away from making major decisions. Big decisions can wait until Tuesday morning.