Usually, the people around me can tell I need a break before I can. My wife, elders, kids, and staff team can spot the warning lights on the dashboard saying it’s time for a pit stop and some tune-ups. I’m often too fixated on what I see coming ahead to recognize it in myself. And I’m not alone in this.
The same mentality and gift mix that makes an effective church planter is often the fatal flaw that will blow up the engine if ignored. Look around us. There are too many friends who have blown up along the way and have lost their ministry qualification, marriage, or life itself.
There’s a better way.
We don’t need to be strictly Sabbatarian to understand that God has created us with a need for rest. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). His call to all who follow him was never, “Come, all who labor and are heavy laden, and earn your way into my presence; carry the weight of the advance of my kingdom, or be sure to pull your own weight.” No! He invited us to come and find rest for our souls (Matt. 11:28–30).
The Problem with Broad Shoulders
So why doesn’t the burden feel easy and light as promised? The problem isn’t with the sufficiency of Jesus’s promise. The problem is that we put the Lord’s work on our own backs, expecting to carry it on our own. The broader your shoulders, the stronger your back, the more tempted you will be to do the Lord’s work in your own power rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Francis Schaeffer said, “If we put activity, even good activity, at the center rather than trusting God, then there may be the power of the world, but we will lack the power of the Holy Spirit.”The broader your shoulders, the stronger your back, the more tempted you will be to do the Lord’s work in your own power rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet
This is doubly difficult for those who make their living in ministry. We have the constant temptation to do more to accomplish more, and often some past experience of the good results when we do have a “busy season.” Doing the Lord’s work in the power of the Spirit doesn’t mean we won’t be tired or have busy stretches, but it does mean that we will learn to wait on God to move and trust that the results are up to the movement of the Spirit, not our work.
Here are five suggestions for developing a theology of rest to help you serve your church better.
1. Seek God’s presence. None of us can make it for the long haul or be marginally effective at a lasting level if we aren’t first immersed in the presence and pleasure of God. Cultivate consistent rhythms and routines to ensure that your soul is nourished through God’s Word and refreshed in the stillness and quiet before him.
2. Take days off. Establish a regular pattern that is predictable for everyone else around you. I’ve made the mistake of shifting or floating that day too often in the past, and it has wreaked havoc on my family, and later on, a church staff as we grew our team. Having regular and predictable patterns is better for everyone.
3. Use your vacation time. No one will force you to do this, and no one will likely know when you don’t use it. Your church should have a set plan for leave for all pastors and staff. There’s nothing noble about short-changing your family on making memories.
4. Develop a sabbatical policy. Different churches have different approaches for how frequent and how long sabbaticals are for pastors. If you don’t have a policy in place, work with the elders to develop one. Creating opportunities for extended leave for renewal is important not only for the pastor and his family but also for the whole church.
5. Get input about how you’re doing. Regularly asking your spouse, elders, and other staff what they see in you is an important practice. You might be more tired than you realize. Whether you’re extra irritable, missing details you normally wouldn’t, or just lack the emotional elasticity to bounce back from a tough interaction, you might not notice the indicators.
The Example of Jesus
It’s not a sin to be tired. Even Jesus got tired and had to pull back from good work (Mark 6:31). He got away from the ministry to spend time in the Father’s presence. He pulled back from crowds to eat and talk with his closest friends, the disciples. Jesus was the most Spirit-filled person to ever live, and still, he needed rest.After an intense year of constant ministry shifts, unending decision-making, and mounting tensions, it’s essential that we rest to be rejuvenated before we plunge headlong into the next season. Click To Tweet
The only one who can know what’s going on under the hood in your life is you. But the people God has put around you can help you see the indicator lights on the dashboard that are starting to light up. After an intense year of constant ministry shifts, unending decision-making, and mounting tensions, it’s essential that we rest to be rejuvenated before we plunge headlong into the next season. Jesus invites us to come to him when we labor and are heavy laden so he can give us rest. Don’t pass on our Savior’s offer.
Take a break. Make new memories. Spend time seeking God’s presence independently from ministry demands or sermon prep. And trust that Jesus will build his church even while you take a nap.