“Pastors go to the doctor?”
His high pitched tone communicated the confusion he felt.
“I just thought you would pray and God would heal you, you don’t need to sleep, you don’t need any rest”.
Of course Pastors go to doctors. We go to doctors more frequently than most people.
According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010), “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans.”
Being a pastor or church leader is not easy and it comes with many hazards.
Some of the hazards are depression, exhaustion, isolation, workaholism, and sacrificing family.
Despite the challenges, we put on our best Sunday smile because we prescribe to the theology of “Never let them see you sweat.”
A marketing slogan made famous by Gillette in 1984.
It Stops Now
Can we be bold enough to admit that ministry is challenging, overwhelming and requires a lot?
I know too many ministers who are exhausted but have given in to the taboo that it’s unspiritual to admit you need rest.
A lack of rest for our souls leads to two immediate problems…
- The first is, that we lead out of the state of our souls. So if we are tired, and overwhelmed – that is where we lead from. We lead out of the guilt of being tired of ministry, frustrated of the toll it takes on our families and overwhelmed by the great expectations of our congregations. Many expect us to be everywhere and all knowing. We represent Jesus, but we aren’t Jesus.
- The second issue is that we must admit our thirst. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” He can provide drink and refresh our souls, but there is one condition. We’ve got to admit that we are thirsty. That seems to be difficult for ministers and church leaders. I get it. People come to us expecting a word from God, a word of encouragement – in those moments, who wants to admit that the tank is empty. But you cannot refill the tank unless you are willing to admit that the tank is empty.
The good news is that God has made a way for us to be refreshed. In Jeremiah 6:16 he says
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Did you catch that “rest for your souls?”
The word Rest is commonly translated Menuha (sabbath), which means a settled, deep stillness.
We need to lead from a stillness, a deep peace from within. A quietness of the soul.
Unless you are quiet, it’s extremely difficult to hear what Jesus is saying.
But how do we do that…
how do we find rest for our souls?
We’ll I’m glad you asked.
I’ve got 3 strategies I’d like to share with you.
Strategy #1 Soul cleansing:
“Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16
Forgive me for being vulgar. But it’s a lot like having your colon cleansed. There are foods that get trapped in your stomach and these foods can be toxic, which can even lead to cancer.
.In much the same way, there are emotions that get trapped in our hearts.
Frustrations.These emotions can lead to heartaches. Or worse – we can become cynical, always doubting the power of God, even
These emotions can lead to heartaches. Or worse – we can become cynical, always doubting the power of God, even becoming a cancer to the church. Where we spread our toxicity. But a soul cleansing allows us to unveil the issues of the heart.
The only way to deal with the darkness within our souls is to drag it to the light. So confess your sins to one another and be healed.
If you want to find rest for your soul you must cleanse your soul regularly.
Strategy #2: No is not a 4 letter word:
Why is saying “No” so difficult? A flood of guilt comes over us.
The problem is that when you say yes to something, you say no to other things.
You can only do so many things in a day. So when you say “yes” to longer hours, more counseling, or more ministry opportunities – two things happen.
#1 You miss out on your home life. Ministry is super important, but so is your home life. The truth is that God can raise up someone else to lead your church or ministry, but there is no one else who can be a father, or a mother to your child. No one else can be the husband or wife you are supposed to be. Utilize “No” as a tool to safe guard your home. If you don’t safe guard your calendar, someone else will override it.
#2 Your “Yes” robs someone else’s opportunity. When you say “No”, you make room for someone else’s “Yes.” A simple rule to live by: never do what you can delegate. If you are the senior Pastor, you can delegate counting the offering. But you can never delegate preaching on Sundays. If you are a ministry leader you can delegate the tactical aspect of your ministry but only you can provide the vision or direction of the ministry.
If you want to manage your rest… then you must say “NO.”
Strategy #3: Stop neglecting relationships:
“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” 2 Timothy 1:16
The phrase “refreshed me” is literally translated into “a breath of fresh air.”
In the moments where it feels like life is impossible, and we find it hard to catch our breath, relationships can act as a breath of fresh air.
Recently, my wife joined a small group. Every Monday evening is a challenge for me – getting a four-year-old and two-year-old fed by 6pm is close to impossible. Then leaving to a chorus of “Momma, don’t leave” – makes it impossible.
But at 9:15pm, I hear our car pull up, and a refreshed mom walks through those doors. My wife is a seasoned believer – she’s not always wowed by the curriculum, but she is always refreshed by the relationships.
One quick tip… when you are around those you love, put your phone on send and be in the moment.
Every night from 6pm to 9pm; my phone goes on send. Every call I get goes straight to voicemail. Why? Because I have two young boys who need me to be present.
Why you Need Rest!
Recently, Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of New Springs in South Carolina, with 30,000 members stepped away from ministry. This is what he said, “in my obsession to do everything possible to reach 100,000 and beyond, it has come at a personal cost in my own life and created a strain on my marriage.
This was a spiritual and moral mistake on my part, as I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge instead of Jesus and others.”
Don’t do ministry on empty. Instead, make sure you find rest for your souls.
I’ve got some homework for you… select one strategy from above and try it this week.
If you’ve got some other strategies share them with us in my new Church Leadership Private Facebook Group. Look forward to connecting.