Too many pastors have accepted a life of “busy-ness” instead of a life of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I teach a course on the Exegesis of Exodus at Asbury Seminary. As part of the semester, we work through the Sabbath commandment. At the heart of the Sabbath, is God’s command to inaction. I am not a sabbatarian in the classic sense of the word, but I am convinced that there is an abiding missiological witness implicit in God’s commandments. When we as followers of Jesus Christ live out the principles found in Scripture, we reflect inherently to the world something of the heart and character of God. Biblical ethics are not merely about punishment and sin—they are about witnessing to the world of a better way of life—the life that God created humanity to live.
When it comes to Sabbath, the principle of no work that brings financial gain
is crucial. As our world becomes increasingly global, Western nations
are coming into competition with rising economies in which workers
routinely work 60-100 hours seven day per week schedules. I believe
that followers of Jesus Christ have the opportunity to witness to the
surrounding culture that work is not the final word for humanity—rest is. A God-given rest has been woven into the very fabric of the universe.
Yet if followers of Christ are to capture this missional moment,
Christian leaders need to live radically different than many currently
do. Too many pastors allow themselves to be trapped by a never ending
mountain of busyness in which at the end of the day they experience poor
health, loneliness, family discord, and burn out.
How can pastors begin to experience the sort of life that God
has called humanity to live? How can pastors begin to create an ethos
of health within communities of faith rather than dysfunction?
1) Pastors must be ruthless in their quest for a balanced life.
We need to quit making excuses for obscenely busy lives. Each of us is
ultimately responsible for the decisions we make in how we choose to
conduct our lives. God has not called us into Christian service so that
we can destroy our relationships with our spouses and children, have no
time for meaningful relationships with friends, and ironically lose the
zeal that we once had to spread the Gospel.
2) Pastors who live balanced lives will prioritize their time around their strengths.
We need to understand ourselves. It is crucial that we learn to spend
the majority of our time doing what we do best. Christian ministry in
the traditional sense puts ridiculous demands on pastors. Read the job
description of the pastor in any denominational handbook and you will be
shocked by the many and various tasks that a pastor is supposed to
juggle. Smart pastors focus on their own gifts and learn to delegate
the majority of other tasks to persons more capable than themselves.
3) Pastors who live balanced lives teach and promote a gift-based ministry. The
New Testament documents portray the body of Christ as an organism in
which each believer plays a crucial role through the deployment of his
or her gift for the sake of the mission of the whole.
Christendom has subverted the biblical witness by setting churches up as
corporations in which paid professions “do ministry” on behalf of a
group of spectators (usually called the “laity”) who provide only the
financial resources to fuel the mission of the Church. Pastors need to
have the courage to teach the biblical model of a gift-based culture.
Pastors need to function primarily as equippers rather than laborers.
Here is a test: if the pastor has to be present for a ministry to
function, the pastor has not created a gift-based culture within his or
4) Pastors who live balanced lives train leaders rather than enable followers.
New Testament communities expect Christ followers to deploy their
gifts. It is simply inconceivable for the biblical writers that a
person can profess belief in Jesus Christ and then live unchanged and
unproductive lives. 21st century leaders must focus on training leaders rather than feeding sheep.
What do you think?
© 2014 Brian D. Russell
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