This is part 6 of 6 in our Spiritual Formation for Pastors series.
Spiritual disciplines help pastors step out of incessant busyness to focus on being with God, not just working for God. Let’s consider five spiritual disciplines of interest to pastoral ministry, to help you focus on your walk with Christ.
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
We all need to pause regularly to consider what we’re thinking and feeling about life. This is counter-cultural in our culture of busyness, but reflection helps us discern God’s leading and hear his voice. There are many different ways to engage in reflection. You may keep a journal, or talk to someone, or get away alone to read and think. Experiment with different approaches or methods of being reflective.
Everyone agrees that prayer is important, but our fallen nature pushes us away from prayer. And prayer goes against the performance-focused, workaholic nature of ministry. Yet prayer is the real work. It takes intentionality and practice. The most important thing is to just start! If you’re adapting a new routine, start slowly and build up gradually over time. Talk about your prayer patterns and methods with others. Learn from others who are in ministry about how to pray and how to make time for it.
The key idea of sabbath is simply “Quit.” Take a break, already. The norm for pastors is that too often we work seven days a week. Sabbath is a humble act of trusting God and giving up control. Experiment with it. Try different approaches. Have a conversation with church leaders about their expectations. Recruit them to help you observe some Sabbath in your life.
In repentance, we invite God to look at our sin with us. But this doesn’t just mean private confession before God. Let trusted others know your deepest weaknesses and failures. Help the congregation see by your example that everyone needs a repentant heart, and what repentance actually looks like.
We need both personal and corporate worship experiences. Create a structure to support private worship time. As you do, experiment and be creative. In corporate worship, take steps to be fully engaged. Make sure the event is well planned in advance, so you don’t have to be distracted by what needs to be done. Delegate practical Sunday tasks to others so you can engage God more fully. Make a point to not be evaluating things as you worship. Just worship. Again, in worship, we need to be careful that we’re not just working for God, but being with God.
It’s challenging to change your life habits and routines to make room for practices like this. You will have to give up other things to find time. It’s not easy, so be gracious to yourself. Remember: the point of spiritual disciplines is to step out of your everlasting busyness to be in the enriching presence of Jesus.
Adapted from Resilient Ministry by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. ©2013 by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
- Rate the five disciplines outline above in the order of which are most and least challenging for you? Explain.
- Where could you create some intentional space in your work day to step out of busyness to reflect on how you are feeling and what you are doing?
- To what extent is prayer considered one of your job responsibilities? How can you invite others to help you heighten this aspect of your ministry?
- Consider several creative ways to trust God by taking a sabbath. Choose one new idea with which to experiment.
- In what areas might God be granting you the role of modeling repentance as you lead your congregation?
- Think of some practical steps you can take to be less distracted and more fully engaged with God in your church’s weekend worship?
- What habits or practices of your life might have to give way in order to make time and energy for spiritual disciplines? Explain.
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.