What Should A Pastor Consider “Work”?

May 06

What Should A Pastor Consider “Work”?

No, this isn’t a post debating Calvinism and Arminianism. It’s more practical than that.

When Billy Graham was interviewed about what he’d do differently if he had to do it all over again, he said he would spend a whole lot more time praying and studying. And he’d spend a lot less time speaking, etc.

Lots of people say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I do. I don’t consider it work.” I woke up this morning struggling with this concept as it relates to being a pastor. I try my best during “office hours” to do office sorts of things (emails, letters, phone calls, website updates, worship guides, service planning, meeting with people, etc.). I also use part of it for study. Part of me feels guilty using that time for prayer, skimming a book, or reading the Bible. Who else in their jobs outside the church could do that? It just doesn’t seem fair.

Yet many people would say, “Yeah, but you’re a pastor. It’s your job to pray/study/read the Bible, etc.” I understand what they are saying. After all, what more important thing can a pastor do then spend time with God? Even Billy Graham wished he did that more. And I do believe that a pastor’s calling is going to look different than someone who works a “secular” job. But part of me wants to disagree. Here are some reasons why:

1. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus got up early in the morning to find solitude with God and pray. If it were anyone’s job to pray/study, surely it was the Son of God’s job to do so! Yet it seems He was occupied with spending time with people during “normal hours,” and He found time outside of operating hours to spend in solitude with God.

2. Martin Luther is quoted as saying something along the lines of “Today is going to be so busy for me, I can’t afford NOT to get up super early and pray for 4 hours beforehand.”

3. If I went to bed 1 hour after we put our children to bed (on a normal night), I could easily wake up at 4-5 am and have slept for 8 hours. If I were to do this, it would give me at least 2 hours in the morning before everyone else in my home wakes up to spend time with God/study.

4. The time I spend after the kids go to bed is mostly wasteful. I just relax and watch TV. I’m too tired to do anything really productive.

It seems to me that a pastor who uses his/her office hours to pray/study is in a way “cheating the system.” I know some people would separate study for a sermon and personal study, and I see that point too. But the flip side of that coin is that many times it is hard for me to separate personal study and sermon study, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I would hope that what I share on Sundays is an overflow of what God is doing and speaking to me in my life. I would also hope that others in the congregation would come on Sundays ready to share from that overflow as well in their own lives.

The congregation isn’t getting paid for spending time with God, shouldn’t the same be true of the pastor?

P.S. I wrote this blog during office hours. I feel halfway guilty for this too.

P.P.S. Another piece to this puzzle is that I don’t think it’s biblical to look upon the role of pastor in a church as a “job.” Rather, I think that my role as pastor is to give of myself to the church, voluntarily as a slave and not as an employee. My life should be a gift to the church. And I think it’s the church’s role to give financially to the pastor in appreciation for his gift to the church, voluntarily as a gift and not as a paycheck. Perhaps if we had more of this mindset, there wouldn’t be such an inward struggle as to how a pastor’s time is spent during the day. Even so, however, I stand beside my four points in this blog post. They are true regardless of the structural arrangement between a pastor and the church.

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