The Unbusy Pastor

Last night I started reading The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson. Peterson's books on pastoral ministry are so powerful and convicting (I posted about one of them before here). They are not best-sellers because you will not find any grand ideas on how to grow your church from 50 to 5,000. There's not much marketable about them in this era of the 21st century church. But everytime I read one, there is something in my soul that cries out to be the kind of pastor he writes about. There's no mention of modern marketing or leadership trends. No mention of being _______-driven or ________-sensitive (fill in your own blank). Just this simple plea to be the kind of spirit-filled pastor we find in the New Testament. (And if you read "spirit-filled" and think of anything soft, ineffective, or irrelevant, then you don't really understand the Holy Spirit.)

One chapter I read last night was called The Unbusy Pastor. This statement rocked my world: "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 afront."

He goes on to say that generally a pastor is busy for one of two reason: vanity or laziness. Our vanity causes business that makes us feel important. Or sometimes to try to somehow justify our salaries. When people notice our business, they acknowledge our significance, and our vanity is fed. Our laziness causes us to be busy because we don't take the time to train up lay-leaders or delegate work to others.

Peterson then says the proper work of a pastor is threefold: praying, preaching, and listening. By listening he's referring to taking the time to hear the hurts, needs, and even victories of our congregation. And also listening for God's direction.

I found this reinforced in my Bible-reading today. I'm studying Acts and I come across Acts 6:2-4. "And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'"

There is so much good and valuable pastoral advice out there in the way of books and conferences. I think it goes back to balance, though. We do need to be good leaders and we do need to make sure the church is reaching out to the lost. But most pastors expect too much of themselves. We need to spend more time training people to BE the church so that we can spend more time equipping them to BE the church.

Peterson closed the chapter with this: "Years ago I noticed, as all pastors must, that when a pastor left a neighboring congregation, the congregational life carried on very well, thank you. A guest preacher was assigned to conduct Sunday worship, and nearby pastors took care of the funerals, weddings, and crisis counseling. A congregation would go for months, sometimes as long as a year or two, without a regular pastor. And I thought, All these things I am so busy doing - they aren't being done in that pastorless congregation, and nobody seems to mind. I asked myself, What if I, without leaving, quit doing them right now? Would anybody mind? I did, and they don't."


marlene myers said...

rckiHey, Jeff, I think if you cannot resist buying something for your dad for Christmas this sounds like the perfect gift - especially since he's bi-vocational currently & sometimes "tri". It has taken me a few months to get into the habit of daily checking your blog & now when you don't "blog-in" I'm a little put out with you. It brings back an old feeling like - Hey Jeff, you haven't done your home work today, have you? Ha Ha!
But then I have to remind myself that you are a very BUSY person. Sorry, couldn't resist. But, truthfully, those are my reactions, usually. Without going on & on, I really anticipate each new entry. I never realized what a passionate writer you have developed into (oops ending in a preposition). Although, you know I must say as your mom there are times when I'm reading along & I blurt out - "Oh, my gosh, I can't believe he actually wrote that down!" LOL But then that's who you are, & who you are is who me & your dad are so proud of (oops again). Too personal for a blog page? Sorry. See ya Thanksgiving, Mom

Jeff Myers said...

Golly-gee, Mom! Not in front of the guys!
Love you,