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Monday, September 12, 2005

Am I a Busy Pastor?

I hereby declare that Pastor Alms in North Carolina is my kindred spirit. I hope he is not offended. You should read his blog daily. Today, he reflects on the question: "What Does a Pastor Do All Day? It's a very good post.

It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw. A pastor is in his study kneeling in prayer. And his secretary peeks around the door and says, "Oh good, you're not busy."

He's praying, but according to her, he's not doing anything really important. I hate the idea that a pastor is supposed to be "busy." It's killing the church. "Busy" does not always mean faithful. People, with the best heart, will say to me, "I know you're busy . . . " And I try to correct them. Do I have a lot to do? Yes. Is my time and energy limited? Yes. But God forbid that I ever become a busy pastor.

I read somewhere that we must make a distinction between that which is urgent and that which is important. I find I have to do this all the time. So many different things pull at me, I must sometimes discriminate. What may be urgent to someone (meaning they want me to pay attention to it right now), might not be important. And what is important, might not be urgent. Hopefully, we put our first energies toward what is both important and urgent.

Most people measure effectiveness according to output or production. Some pastors give in to the temptation to make sure they have observable things they can show others as evidence that they are doing a good job. They live by what I call the ABCs of church meetings: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash.

Other times, simply moving around a lot, always walking fast, making sure you are seen in all the right places, and having a distracted look in your eyes gives people the illusion that ministry is taking place. And many pastors derive their sense of self-esteem from having people think they are movers and shakers in the kingdom of God.

Of course, I have duties I must attend to. People to visit. Meetings to attend. Things to do. But how can I really tabulate the hours spent in prayer, in devotion, in casual pastoral conversation. How much time should I allot for sermon prep or teaching prep? I find it difficult to keep everything to a rigid schedule. Sometimes I need to crunch on a text for a long time before I can offer something meaningful. Sometimes I need to meditate (not in the Eastern empty-your-head way). Nothing kills prayer, reflection and study more than "busy."

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3 comments:

Tony Myles said...

I totally affirm this... may you be found "unproductive" more and more so that God is pleased by your "inactivity" for Him.

Paul Gregory Alms said...

Scott,

Thanks for the tip of the hat. Your comments were right on the mark as well. Some pastors play the busy game very well. Try to appear and be as busy as possible to impress the congregation and others.

Greg

Steven said...

Good points with your post. If you haven't done so already, I recommend "The Contemplative Pastor" by Eugene Peterson. It was a required text for a Hal Senkbeil course and he has a great chapter entitled, "The Unbusy Pastor." It hits on some good points that every pastor should ponder in his busy day...

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