Articles for Pastors
The Need for a Spiritual Retreat
One of the special things about SCM is that we offer Free Spiritual Retreats two times a year to Pastors and Missionaries. A common response to this is “I am not sure I can get away” or “I am not sure I need this” or something similar. This is a clue he needs it. If I would talk to his wife she would say he is long overdue. Wayne Muller states; “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath—our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”
Pastoral service is harder now than ever. What is going on? I jotted down over a page on my list to the question; What kind of challenges do pastors face? The statistics are alarming and I will not list them here. Let me described in a simplified terms a condition many pastors find themselves in; Overworked, Overwhelmed and Overcommitted. That should be enough reason for pastors to benefit from a spiritual retreat. The soul is not like a gas pump. We cannot continually give. We need to receive. We need to retreat. Retreats are a necessity, not an option. A retreat offers us time to conduct the business of heaven, Lk 2:46-47. Retreats are not a luxury; they are a regular necessary part of the Lord’s lifestyle. So let me define this retreat I am referring to. It is not a conference or a vacation; both are needed but so is the retreat for anyone in ministry. It is a time apart when we move slowly, take time to rest, have time for solitude and listening, share our journey’s and key learnings, eat together and enjoy one another’s company. God does not expect you to lose your family, marriage, ministry or your health as a result of the ministry that you have been called to. You believe God is sovereign and He can take care of His church if you take some time off, right? Some men have figured it out, usually after a heart attack or something major, but many are still struggling with the thought of taking a day off. Here are two reasons; some call this the walking on water syndrome and that the church needs us 24/7; that is codependence. The other is a misunderstanding of the theology of the body of Christ. Is the pastor supposed to do all the work and ministry in the church? That is what we pay him for, right? Or is it to build up the believers to develop and use their spiritual gifts that God has given to every believer?
This directs me to the topic of Rest and Sabbath Rest that you need as you shepherd your flock. In Mark 2:27 Jesus states “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
In Exodus 20:8-10, it tells us to “remember the Sabbath”. You can study Deut. 5, Lev. 23 and Heb. 4 as well. Let us note a few things about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gift from God, neglecting the Sabbath too long will make your soul hard and dry and spent. The Sabbath is a command given to us to save us from ourselves. When we keep the Sabbath we value what God values. Sabbath keeping honors the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment and the soul’s need to delight itself in God. At the heart of worship is rest. There can be no real worship without true rest.
Chip Ingram stated it this way. “God created the Sabbath to protect your body from wearing out, protect your spirit from turning out, and protecting your soul from burning out.”
In her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton she shares “on retreat there is time and space to attend what is real in my own life. To celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed tears, sit with questions, feel my anger, attend my loneliness and allow God to be with me in those places. On retreat we rest in God and wait on him to do what is needed.”
Heb. 4:9-11 ESV - So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
“The Sabbath is a 24 hour block of time in which we stop work, enjoy, rest, practice delight, and contemplate God.” Peter Scazzero
Preach the Gospel to Yourself Every Day
That sentence has been attributed to several different authors and it’s difficult to discover the true source. I first read it a few years ago reading one of Jerry Bridge’s books. The phrase does have biblical reference.
Psalm 42:5 (ESV) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) 22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
And the apostle Paul spoke of the power of the gospel which is the reason we preach it with boldness.
Romans 1:16 (ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul clearly defined the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV) 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
The gospel is the power of God that not only saves us from the penalty of sin (“Christ died for our sin”) but from the power of sin (“he was raised the third day. We need to remind ourselves daily of two significant truths regarding the power of the gospel:
1. Christ died for our sins. We are now IN CHRIST, fully reconciled to God and declared righteous in Him.
As Pastors we are not invulnerable to Satan’s attacks as the “accuser of the brothers.” He daily comes to us to remind us how sinful we are even to the point of causing us to doubt our salvation of the Father’s love for us. I need to remind myself every day that I am IN CHRIST and fully accepted in Him. There is nothing I could do to cause God to love me less; there is nothing I could do to cause God to love me more. And because I am IN CHRIST I have peace with God and have full access to His throne (Romans 5:1-2).
2. Christ rose again the third day. Christ is IN US. We live each day in His resurrection power. The power of the gospel not only saves us from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin. That is Paul’s emphasis in Romans 6-8.
We need to begin each day affirming the truth that because Christ lives in us we have a new capacity to walk in newness of life with the power to say “no” to sin when faced with temptation.
Romans 6:6-7 (ESV) 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Romans 6:14 (ESV) For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
So go ahead, preach the gospel. Preach it to sinners who need to be delivered from sin’s penalty. Preach it to saints who need to affirm the resurrection power of Christ in their lives each day to overcome sin. And preach it to yourself. Begin each day praising God for your salvation – that you are forgiven and that God is WITH YOU and FOR YOU. And pray for His grace to help you overcome sin with the resurrection power of Christ.
Presented by Doug Compton, Pastor at Alpine Baptist Church
How to Help your Pastor and His Family after the Loss of a Child
By: Nathan Smith
Our Story: We were less than a month into our new ministry when our fifth son was stillborn. God used this death to bond us to our new church family. This bond continues to form as we are appropriately vulnerable with them, and as they continue to care for us. I want to share some of our experience in order to help you know how to care for your pastor if he and his family go through a similar crisis.
The main principle in caring for a Pastor and their family after a tragedy is: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” You can’t go far wrong just asking, “how would I want to be cared for if I were them?” (Mt 7:12). Below are some examples to get you started.
Feed Them: We were told that my wife would not be able to function for a couple weeks after the stillbirth. So I asked our church family for meals every other day for two weeks. Our church family brought us dinner five nights a week for six weeks. This was unspeakably helpful because it removed a stress from Cheyenne’s afternoon. And it demonstrated their love for us. And it bonded us to them. Whatever you do, feed them.
Financially Help Them: Several people gave us cash to help with medical and funeral home bills. People also gave us money to plant a tree in our son’s memory. Others pooled some money so we could go to a hotel/waterpark and laugh again as a family
Help with their other kids: Several times people offered to babysit our kids. This was great! And we said “no” sometimes. At times our kids needed to be close to us. So offer and they will probably take you up on it. But don’t be offended if they feel they need to keep their kids close.
Pray for Them: Telling them you will pray for them is good, as long as you do it. Putting your hand on their shoulder and praying out loud for them is much better. Your pastor will be grateful if you pray for him.
Do something fun with them: One of the men in the church knew I liked to run. So he took me out running on his favorite course. It was incredibly helpful to get out of the office and out of the house for a while.
Be there: I worked from home the first week and a half after Justus’ death. When I went back to the office ladies organized a schedule and came to our house and spent the morning with Cheyenne and our 3 year old son. This made it possible for me go to the office without feeling bad about leaving my wife at home alone.
Be Patient: Holding your dead child leaves an emotional wound that takes time to heal. Your pastor will be playing hurt as he does the work of the ministry for quite a while. This means he will get tired faster and have less emotional margin. That means he might wear his emotions on his sleeve for a while. Be patient. After the death of a child, plan on 23 years for recovery.
Summary: Again, ask, “if I were them, what would help me?” If you are doing that you are following Christ (Mt 7:12). Your concern for Christ’ under shepherd honors the Good Shepherd.
Nathan is the Pastor at First Baptist Church, Allegan, MI Email: firstname.lastname@example.org