3 Pastoral Priorities...
Pastors always have plenty to do.
There is always another meeting to attend, sermon to write, class to teach, decision to make, counsel to give, etc. If we are not careful, our calendars can quickly fill to the point of being unrealistic. This is one reason so many pastors burn out.
What most pastors are not honest about, or maybe even in touch with, is what truly drives our over-busyness. Too many pastors don’t trust the God we preach. We betray our disbelief when we try to be saviors instead of the stewards God has called us to be. In his book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson cuts to the heart of this over-busyness problem:
“The word 'busy' is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective 'busy' set as a modifier to 'pastor' should sound to our ears like 'adulterous' to characterize a wife or 'embezzling' to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” (P.27)
Having a fruitful life and full schedule is a good thing. We should work hard and spend ourselves making Jesus known. But busy to the point of burnout is a problem. It’s a problem for the pastor and it’s a problem for the church.
Busyness becomes a problem when what we CAN do crowds out what we MUST do. We can do all kinds of things, but there are at least three things that must be prioritized in the pastor’s life…
Pastors should first and foremost be men of prayer. Yet prayer is often the first thing to get “rescheduled” when we get busy. Whether we articulate it or not, pushing aside prayer is a profession of self-reliance. Prayer then, is practicing dependence on God. We have to acknowledge our need and prioritize prayer.
Not all pastors “preach” in the traditional sense (i.e. In the pulpit on Sunday morning), but all qualified pastor/elders must be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2). Whether it’s from the pulpit or across the table over coffee, all pastors are involved in some expression of Biblical instruction. This takes time to prepare, read, meditate, study, and learn - it must be prioritized.
Pastors are shepherds and there’s no such thing as a shepherd who spends no time with his sheep. We need to coach, train, counsel, help, love, and serve the people God entrusts to our care. If our calendars are so packed our people can’t find their way on to them, something must change - what must change is our priorities.
There is no shortage of good things a pastor can do, but only a few things he must - prayer, preaching, and people are at the top of that list. Without these we’re not pastoring.