Too often pastors develop an “old cowboy” mentality where they feel they need to “stay in the saddle” at all costs. Unfortunately, too many church goers feel their pastors should be old cowboys. That notion of pastoral “toughness” may sound romantic, but it rarely – if ever – ends well. Set aside the obvious sin of pride involved; no one can spiritually, emotionally or physically sustain it.
Pastor, if you feel you’re riding that horse, I’ve got four short statements of unsolicited advice you need to hear if you, your family and your ministry are going to survive. Somebody’s got to tell you so it might as well be me. I’ve ridden in that rodeo before.
The man God uses in a mighty way is well acquainted with passionate, persistent and agonizing prayer. Your joy and peace depend on your prayer time. Proclaiming God’s Word in power and courage depend on intimacy with the Father. Vision and direction flow from being so close to the Lord you hear His voice. Your family needs the best of you and not the leftovers. The great revivalist Leonard Ravenhill admonished believers to “Quit playing, start praying. Quit feasting, start fasting. Talk less with men, talk more to God. Listen less to men, listen more to the Words of God. Skip travel, start travail.”
Brother don’t waste your time trying to be clever. Invest time seeking the anointing of Elijah.
Paul passionately told Timothy to “Preach the Word” (II Timothy 4:2). You could easily spend 40 hours a week counseling others, but long-term exposure to that will kill you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Or, you can teach a well-exegeted, well-prepared and well-applied biblical truth in a fraction of the time and bless everyone in the worship service. John Wesley said, “Give me 100 preachers that fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God; such alone will shake the gates of Hell.” As culture becomes more spiritually dark, people will crave a prophetic word from God. Preach the Bible so simply an eight year old understands your message, but with such Holy Spirit conviction demons fear your preaching.
Being a pastor isn’t for wimps. A pastor loves His people. It’s work and warfare, but what a great calling. The sheep need you to show up. My friend Willie McLaurin calls it the “theology of presence” and my friend Bobby Welch calls it the “power of presence.” Connect and walk with the people you pastor. You’ll never know how a hand-written note, a text or phone call will impact others. Be there on their mountain tops as well as in their valleys. One of my seminary professors gave this simple job description for the pastor: “Love God, love His people, behave accordingly.” When you love people, it gives validity to what you say in the pulpit.
Most people don’t fully understand that the high calling of pastor can be a grind. The shepherd is truly never off the clock. I was once asked to track my pastoral hours. A slow week was 50-plus hours and too often it was 70-plus. Those hours were filled with deep emotional engagements, message building, and the constant barrage of spiritual warfare. The challenges are like waves on the shore and are spiritually and emotionally soul sapping.
Take – even demand – an eight day vacation or consecutive Sundays and 14 days away. God’s church isn’t going to collapse. You take best care of it by taking care of yourself. Daily “hush the rush” and “come apart” as Jesus did or you’ll come apart. Unplug at least once weekly, Take quarterly three-to-four day study breaks and make your summer vacation count.
Here’s the point: You need the constant life and energy restoration only the Holy Spirit provides.
So dear pastor, remember, this ain’t no rodeo so don’t be an old cowboy. God’s people need real men of God humbly and effectively shepherding the flock. The best way to do it? Pray up, speak up, show up and rest up.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey.