By Larry Robertson
Pastor, Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville
A lady I once pastored in a church in a place in “a galaxy far, far away” criticized me for taking a vacation. She actually used the line, “Well, the devil doesn’t take a vacation.” So, I responded with the classic comeback in this textbook conversation: “Yes, ma’am, but I try not to take my lead from the devil.”
Ministry is one of those “vocations,” if I can call it that, where you’re never really “off the clock.” Life happens 24-7-365. But even Jesus rested, and He encouraged His disciples to join Him in that rest. Were there still hurting people who needed Jesus and His disciples during those times? No doubt. But ministry is often a balancing act, like the tightrope walker. We can plan our getaways and our days of rest, but sometimes … well, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men …” as Robert Burns observed.
Be that as it may, our bodies and minds still need rest. Our spirits, too! God actually designed us with a certain rhythm that can’t be ignored forever. That’s what “Sabbath” is about. (By the way, the word “sabbath” means “rest,” not “seventh.”)
If I can rat out my own kind, pastors are often the worst violators of the Sabbath. Sunday is hardly a day of rest for most pastors; yet, when do we “come away by [our]selves to a desolate place and rest a while”? And, truth be told, sometimes church members can make their pastors feel guilty for attempting to rest. Add to that the fact that life doesn’t check a pastor’s calendar before it happens. Thus, the necessary balancing act that is ministry.
Do you know what day your pastor takes as a “day off?” Have you asked your pastor lately, “When’s the last time you took a vacation?” Church members should insist that their pastors take a “Sabbath” every week and longer getaways periodically and respect such times by allowing their pastors to actually “rest.”
I’m grateful to serve in a ministry setting where I share ministry with a pastoral staff, so in some ways I have an advantage. But larger church settings that allow for multiple pastors on staff also mean that there are many more sheep in the flock to care for.
Whenever and wherever you find your rest, be intentional about it. And embrace it as a gift from God, because it is. Remember this — sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.