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The need to shut down once a week.
By their very calling, pastors are to be friendly and sociable. They don’t just preach on the Lord’s Day but they also shepherd the flock of God mid-week, spending time with their sheep and applying the Word of God to sanctify their lives.
Nevertheless, many pastors find themselves completely burnt out and run down.
A big part of the problem has to do with the myth that pastors ought to be available 24/7 for their local congregations, even if that means at half past two in the morning and even if that means every single day of the week.
From creation onwards, the Lord established the Sabbath Day as a blessed day of rest. In the days of Moses, this sacred repose was grafted into the Ten Commandments. The Lord thundered, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). It wasn’t a suggestion or a piece of advice; but a commandment from the mouth of the Almighty.
Pastors too need to rest. Let me rephrase that a little more biblically: pastors too are ordained to rest. They have no choice in the matter! Rest or disobey!
Thanks to the resurrection of Christ, the Christian Sabbath passed from Saturday to Sunday, but as we all know, the Lord’s Day is just about the busiest day of the week for God’s servants.
From the first moment we wake up in the morning, there is that Sunday-buzz in our belly that always serves as a reminder that today, as heralds of the Most High, we have a message to give in the name of the King. Sunday too is often a day of pastoral counsel and prayer after the meeting has drawn to a conclusion.
Our compassion for God’s people may lead us to weep and feel impotent. We would just love to solve every trouble with the click of our fingers. But pastoral work is a heart-wrenching affair. It’s just not that simple. We suffer with those who suffer because we love them with the love of Christ.
Since Sunday is a day of labour for God’s prophets, they must seek out some other day of the week to rest in the Lord.
In my own life, that day is (normally) Monday. On Monday, I kiss my mobile phone goodbye. On Monday, my laptop disappears. Sounds pretty revolutionary, don’t you think?
Let me ask you a soul-searching question beloved co-minister: when was the last time you spent 24 hours without using your phone or using your laptop? I asked that selfsame question this past week to a group of forty-something pastors in the south of Spain and they burst out in laughter. The whole concept of spending a day without our mobile seems surreal.
Here’s the thing, man of God: you are commanded to rest. You need to edify your soul in the Lord. You can’t afford to be available 24/7. God didn’t create you to be a machine.
“But my church needs me!”
Yes, your church needs you. That much is true. But your church does not need a half-dead minister, cram-packed with activities and a shallow spiritual life. Your church needs a minister at peace with God, growing in and enjoying growing in the knowledge of Christ. That’s right, I said, enjoying. When the delight has gone from our devotional life, something is off; something just ain’t right.
Churches need pastors who are dedicated to the Word of God and prayer. And even if they have thousands of members under their leadership, they are not called to be “serving tables”. If you don’t believe me, just read Acts 6:4. Your church needs a man who has been in the secret place with the Lord.
Soldiers, how can you fight well if you are not well rested? No warrior can wage a good warfare if he is barely able to catch a breath.
“But my conscience won’t leave me in peace!”
Your conscience is fickle and unreliable. Your conscience is to be informed by the sovereign Word of God. If God commands you to rest, you are to rest no matter what your conscience or your church board or your church members may think. You should make it clear to your people that you are not the church-puppet. Let them know that you too must give a good example of resting in the Lord. And that means resting one day a week!
Today I call upon all you preachers of the Gospel to shut down once a week. Turn off Internet. You don’t need to know what’s going on in Iraq and Iran; you’ve got the Bible. You don’t need to answer all those e-mails today; you can do that between Tuesday and Saturday.
Don’t let your heart be moved by anything else except that holy commandment from the Lord you profess to serve: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy”.
Less WhatsApp; more obedience!
Less Facebook; more rest!
Less BBC News; more Bible!