I know many pastors who have been exhausted over the last year. Pastoring during a pandemic has brought unique challenges and new routines for all of us. And some of us are still struggling to keep up with all the changes we’ve had to navigate.
If this is you, God has more to say about what you’re feeling right now than you might realize. In fact, God has more to say about your need for rest than he does about murder or adultery. God’s commandment to observe the Sabbath is the longest of the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:8-9 says: “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy. Work and get everything done during six days each week, but the seventh day is a day of rest to honor the Lord your God. On that day no one may do any work: not you, your son or daughter, your male or female slaves, your animals, or the foreigners living in your cities. The reason is that in six days the Lord made everything—the sky, the earth, the sea, and everything in them. On the seventh day he rested. So the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (NCV).
God says every seventh day we need to rest. Jesus tells us why in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath day was made to help people” (NCV). God created the Sabbath for our benefit.
Pastor, that includes you. Just because you have a busy Sunday doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. God doesn’t care when you do it, as long as you take one day off a week.
One of the most important benefits I’ve seen in taking a weekly Sabbath is that it helps me recharge my emotions. Americans are always in a hurry, and we need regular doses of inspiration and encouragement.
To make sure I’m doing that during my day off, I’ve built into it these three practices.
Time for quietness
“He renews my soul. He guides me along the paths of righteousness for the sake of his name” (Psalm 23:3 GW).
Quietness and soul restoration go together. In a world full of noise pollution, it’s hard to find a place where you can be totally quiet. Yet the Bible says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).
You need to schedule quiet periods in your life. It’s a good idea to build those periods into your Sabbath. Many people use the whole weekend to relax and recreate, but they never experience quietness and are stressed when they return to work the next week.
In Mark 6:31, Jesus told his disciples during a particularly busy period of ministry: “Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest” (NCV). If Jesus and his disciples needed quietness, you do, too.
Time for family
In American history, Sunday has usually been a day reserved for two things—church and family. Many pastors’ families have missed out on this time because they have such busy Sundays. But it’s a good idea for pastors to build that family time into their Sabbath.
Pastors’ families often make many sacrifices for the sake of ministry. Time together shouldn’t be one of those sacrifices.
Proverbs 14:30 says, “A relaxed attitude lengthens a man’s life” (TLB). If you’re going to last in ministry, you need to relax and regularly have fun with your family.
Time for fellowship
Pastor, you need fellowship just as much as your congregation does. You draw strength from other believers.
Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together” (GNT). We’re rejuvenated when we get together with other believers. It’s tough being in ministry today. We need to spend time encouraging and uplifting each other.
You likely spend plenty of time around Christians every week. A weekly time of worship is a regular part of your work week. But, as you carve out time to rest every week, make sure to spend time in fellowship that is separate from your time spent in ministry. I have been part of a small group for years that has walked with me through some of the most difficult moments of my life. I need that time for fellowship just as much as anyone else.
Since many of us work on Sundays, we need to take our Sabbath on another day of the week. I take my Sabbath on Mondays. Every Monday, I’m just not available to the world. I know this is hard to do for a pastor, but it is critical to your ministry.
I want to challenge you to take the Bible’s command about honoring the Sabbath seriously. It is not an option for any believer, not even a pastor. If you don’t build this time into your life, you’ll pay for it eventually.