One of the significant developments of the past few years has been the rise of resources to help assist pastors and leaders. These helpful and informative volumes speak about “how to eat the elephant” and become a “catalyst for change” in a church desperately in need of it. I am thankful for all these tools and how they have enhanced and assisted my ministry.
My church recently granted me an extended time for rest, recuperation and focused study. I wish everyone could receive a sabbatical, but I recognize that not everyone is so fortunate. During that time, I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on my almost 20 years in ministry, my 16 years as a pastor and to refocus and refine my personal spiritual pursuits.
From that contemplation, I have been reminded of the top three time-management priorities for those serving in replanting and revitalization contexts. I hope what God has been teaching me will serve you as well.
Priority 1: Make time for personal Scripture reading
In the time of the year when pastors go out to mow their lawns, my grass kept growing. The reason? A lawn mower that didn’t function. What should have been max an hour and a half’s work ended up being an all-day job.
First of all, the mower would not crank. Following a winter of inactivity, the battery was dead. After a series of troubleshooting attempts, I had to change the battery. Once that task was behind me, I went to crank the mower and discovered there was a second, equally paralyzing problem. The mower was out of gas.
Like a lawn mower devoid of a battery and gasoline, so too is a minister who is not nourishing his soul personally with the Word of God. Now you might be thinking, I preach or teach 50-plus times a year. I am constantly studying the Bible. While that is commendable, it is insufficient. If you are going to survive in the world of replanting and revitalization, you must make time to energize and fuel your own soul with the Word of God. Looking back on my ministry, I recall times when my soul was empty and dry because I was pouring out the Word to others but not refreshing my own soul. I needed to cry aloud with the psalmist to be filled with the thirst-quenching Savior and His Word (Ps. 42:1; 63:1).
I would recommend selecting a Bible reading plan or a book or chunk of scripture – like Ecclesiastes or the Sermon on the Mount – to work through systematically. A sermon series or Bible study may grow out of these, but it should not be the aim of this pursuit. Rather, engage that Scripture to fill your spiritual tank and renew your connection with the Lord.
Priority 2: Make time for Scripture memory
I am not a mechanically inclined individual. When I reach for my toolbox, my kids will ask if I am sure I don’t need to call one of my deacons. (Most of the time, I probably should).
When I was working on the lawnmower, I realized I needed specific tools. I had to make several trips to the toolbox to retrieve what I needed. I would have been in quite a pickle if what I needed was not there. A pastor, especially in a replant or revitalization, must constantly be adding tools to his spiritual toolbox. One way to do that is to make Scripture memorization a priority in your personal walk with Jesus.
Scripture memory is an avenue God often uses to bring about spiritual changes in my personal life. It serves at least three purposes.
First, the psalmist wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:11). Scripture memory helps to keep us close to God and away from sin.
Second, it fills our hearts and minds, allowing that filling to overflow from our hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34b that “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” This can manifest itself in ministry situations and witnessing encounters when God will bring to mind a verse that you or someone you are talking to needs.
Third, God’s Word in your heart can be a source of your meditation on the things above. Psalm 119:97 says, “How I love your instruction! It is my meditation all day long.” You cannot use a tool you don’t have available. Use Scripture memory to fill your toolbox so you will be equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Priority 3: Make time for personal prayer
Again, I know. You are a pastor or minister. Praying is part of your job: pastoral prayers in the worship service, prayer meetings and during hospital visits. However, if you are going to survive the rigors of revitalization and replanting, you must cultivate your own prayer life. It is cliché, but how effective would your relationship be with your spouse if you never spoke to one another?
In Priority 1, we saw the necessity of hearing from God. Likewise, prayer is the means by which you communicate with God. Jesus, the Son of God, made times of prayer an intimate part of His walk with God. This was especially true around difficult ministry seasons (See Luke 5:16).
Pastor, the ministry is challenging. Compound it with the circumstances of a replant or revitalization and it can feel impossible. Still, it is much more difficult when you are disconnected from the One who says, “Call to Me, and I will show you great and incomprehensible things that you do not know” (Jer. 33:3). Make personal times of prayer a priority.
The work of replanting and revitalizing is a monumental task. How you spend your time is critical. Every choice you make excludes something else. If you want to survive in this ministry, you must prioritize time for the disciplines of personal Bible study, Scripture memory and prayer.
Published August 9, 2022