“How are you doing,” we so commonly ask each other. The #1 answer to this question is, “Survey said, ‘I’m fine.’” Somewhere along the way a friend interpreted the meaning of this response for me. “Fine,” she said, “is an acronym that means Frustrated, Insecure, Nervous and Exhausted.”
I’ve never forgotten it. For the past dozen years I have worked day in and day out with pastors. In fact, as I write I’m on the coastal islands of Georgia leading a group of pastors in a retreat on the recovery of Sabbath Keeping. Being here among these amazing men and women has led me to reflect on some of the things I’ve learned about pastors over the years.
Consider these 7 observations:
- Pastors do an extraordinary amount of listening to frustrated, insecure, nervous and exhausted people.
- As a result, pastors tend to absorb and carry the cumulative burdens of the communities they serve.
- Because these conversations are mostly held in strict confidence, pastors tend to become frustrated, insecure, nervous and exhausted themselves.
- Add to this that pastors are the most unlistened to people on the planet.
- Further, most pastors serve in contexts requiring them to develop the skills of a family chaplain, all the while they long to launch out into the deep waters of prophetic ministry and apostolic movement.
- Over time, this combination leads to a condition of inner life and spirit I call “low grade depression.” We might also frame this condition as a “joy deficit.”
- In order to deal with this, pastors tend to develop expedient and often destructive patterns of escape when the deep need is for sustained life giving practices of renewal.
So what’s a pastor to do? My own experience and my observation of others leads me to suggest not a silver bullet but a simple remedy: Sabbath keeping. Unlike so many other remedies or prescriptions for renewal that tend to increase the list of things “to do,” Sabbath keeping is about doing less.
Here’s an idea, an experiment. As we move toward the Day of Pentecost and onward into the season of summer, consider a ten-week stretch of Sabbath keeping.
A few years back I was asked to write a chapter in a book on spiritual formation for pastors. I called the chapter, “Sabbath time for Sabbath workers.”
I recently updated that short essay into a Seedbed Short and retitled it, “Sabbath Keeping: It’s About Time.” We’ve made it available on Seedbed as a free electronic download.
How about it? Will you take the challenge? Let us know in the comments and we will put you in the resourcing group.