I am just back from a vacation that was very much needed. Without going into all the details, this past year of ministry has been busy, exciting, difficult, discouraging, and draining. That may be how most years go, but spiritually and physically I was exhausted.
So last Sunday night after preaching we loaded up the van and headed north to North Carolina. It was the first time anyone in my family was able to see our newest addition (6 months old today!) and also gave us a great opportunity to spend time with family and friends. I cannot express how joyful it was to see our family, watch our kids play with cousins, as well as visiting with some of my our closest friends. It felt really good to be back in North Carolina!
However, what was better still was the opportunity I had to rest. I didn't sleep as well has I would have liked (especially early in the week), but by the third day of being away from Fort Myers my mind began to rest. For the first time in nearly a decade I actually took time away mentally from the ministry. It was great. We worshiped on Sunday morning as a family before driving back to Florida on Monday. I have learned a few things this week that I think are helpful.
1. Pastors, take time to rest. Ministry is difficult. It is challenging, exciting, exhausting, and a thousand other emotions. However, during the business pastors can begin to assume the church "needs" them. A church does need a pastor, but does not need a pastor who is burned out from exhaustion. You (and I) need time to rest our minds and to focus on nurturing our own souls so that we will be better fit to lead God's church. Implement a Sabbath in your life regularly.
2. It is God's church. While this seems to be a no brainer, I know I often fall into the mentality that the church "needs" me. What I mean is I often feel the pressure to build the church. I was freshly reminded that this is wrong this past week. Our attendance didn't really drop, I wasn't called while away, and there was not a long list of things to catch up on when I came back. I am grateful for the reminder that the church is not mine, nor is it built on me. Jesus will build His church. I've learned this again. And I hope to remember this often!
3. Family matters. In the midst of business it's possible to be home, and yet not be there. It's possible to still have family worship, still pray, still kiss the kids and wife goodnight, and not be there mentally. I don't think this is just applicable for pastors. Men, make sure you love your wife. Make sure you really love her as Christ loved the church. Women, make sure you love your husband. Make sure you really love him. Parents, make sure you love your kids. Invest in their lives. Make sure you are "there" with them. They are gifts given to you.
4. Care for your own soul. All of these and more are based on the importance of caring for your own soul. In the business of ministry, family, and life, it's easy to neglect your own soul. I have been freshly reminded again that caring for my own soul actually helps me think and act better with the previous 3 points of this blog post. Actually, when I walk with the Lord more closely I'm a better man, husband, father, pastor, and friend.