Anyone can look back over three and a half decades of experiences and find a hundred things for which the commentary could be, “That sure did not work.” There is, however, one particular thing I did in the pastorate that was an incredible help. It was called “Study Week.” Two or three times a year, a work week would be dedicated to strategic thinking, intentional planning, and passionate prayer. The goal of this week was primarily to find a word and a direction from God. If the messages the Lord had laid on my heart and a particular direction were developed enough by the end of the week, it was placed on the calendar. Knowing a specific direction removed the “Saturday night panic” from preparing for Sunday morning.
This discipline started 20 years ago while pastoring First Baptist Church of Morristown and continued through the pastorate at Sevierville. Some weeks were spent with my study materials spread out over the dining room table as I committed the full days at home. However, the most productive study weeks came about when I was able to get out of town, close myself up in a hotel room or borrowed cabin and study, plan, and pray.
Where was this model birthed? It was modeled after the life of Christ. Throughout the Gospels, you will find the phrases, “and Jesus came apart,” as well as “and he was alone praying.” Prior to the temptation, Jesus spent 40 days and nights alone in the desert. Before choosing His disciples or walking on the water, the Bible says He was alone praying through the night, and prior to the crucifixion He went to the garden to pray alone.
For me, the most significant, visionary, impactful time experienced with the Lord happened during these times of intentionally getting away from the routine and the pressures of the everyday pastorate. The churches I pastored were gracious enough to encourage, expect, and even provide for the expenses of these study weeks. Someone in your church may have a cabin or condo to loan you for a few days as their way of investing in their pastor because they want you to have a word from God as you go into the pulpit.
The Tennessee Baptist Convention has two retreat centers that offer a very affordable option for pastors to be able to have this time to get away. Linden Valley and Carson Springs Baptist Conference Centers are secure, secluded and convenient to leaders all across the state. You may visit the TBC website at www.tnbaptist.org and follow the link to the Conference Centers, or go directly to their sites:
It is because of my compassion for you as a man of God, understanding as one who has been there, and an urgency due to the lack of prophetic voices across this land that I encourage you to practice the discipline of getting alone with the Father.
Dear pastor, in the words of Vance Havner, you need to “come apart before you come apart.”
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.