Pastor Chad's Itinarary

Monday, July 25, 2011

"How Much Vacation Should A Pastor Take? All of It!"

Since working a secular job now and being bi-vocational in a sense I have struggled in taking time off. This is a convicting post by a faithful brother in the pastoral trenches. I fail as a pastor in this area of resting and focusing on my family through spending ALL my vacation time with them (not doing any pastoral work). As a pastor, I feel as though I need to be there with the church and in a sense I do. But I am only a man who also has a family who needs me away from the pastoral trenches to spend time focusing only on them. The last 4 days has been a great blessing in spending time with our boys as they enjoy the last weekend of their baseball season. I have been allowed the privilege to minister to my family and also to the boys baseball team while on our trip. I am looking forward to spending the next week and a half with my family, taking all of my allotted vacation time, and making the most with my family for spiritual refreshing and family fun! Pastor Chad

This is a repost from Brian Croft. Brian is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He has served in pastoral ministry for fifteen years and is currently in his seventh year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. Brian blogs at

You may begin reading this post with the idea that I will suggest how many weeks of vacation you should be given by your church, or how much you should advocate to give your pastor. Instead, I intend to answer this question a bit differently. My concern is not about how much vacation time a pastor is given, but how he uses (or doesn’t use) what he is given.

This is an appropriate time to pause for a confession. I thought you should know, I often fail at my own advice. I come to the conclusions I often write about on this blog because I have or are currently failing at them. Just thought I would acknowledge that in case you think I write this way because I have figured it all out. Far from it. The stewardship of my vacation time has become a recent glaring area of failure in my life that I have tried to address in this last year.

A couple of years ago, I was lovingly confronted by a dear friend and fellow pastor that I was not using all my vacation time. In his rebuke, he explained to me the reasons I should be taking every day of vacation the church gives me, which I had never done. Here was the basis for his thoughtful, insightful, and wise argument:

It’s for you. The pastor never gets a break in the regular routine. We are constantly on call. Vacation time is that time where you get time to breathe away from the madness, be refreshed, and rest. All of us who are pastors know we are no good for our people when we are exhausted, distracted, and mentally and emotionally spent. Use the time and use it wisely to achieve that end.

It’s for your family. Your family always has to share you. Maybe just as important as the first one, this time is given so that your family has a blocked of time where they don’t have to share you with the church. When you don’t use all your time that has already been approved by the church for this purpose, you rob your family from having your sole focus to care, fellowship, and enjoy them.

It’s for your church. How is it that many of our churches have somehow existed and functioned for the last 50 – 100 years without us, yet all of a sudden we come and develop this complex that our church can now no longer live without us for a week or 2. Using all your vacation time given to you forces others to step up in your absence, shows them they can make it without you for a time, and reminds the pastor most of all that God is not utterly dependent on him for this church to function. We are expendable and we need regular jolts of humility to remind us of that.

After my excellent week of vacation with my family this past week, I have officially for the first time in over 7 years used my full year of vacation given to me by the church since I was called as pastor. The reasons above that my friend confronted me with all showed to be true and fruitful in those ways as I did so. What have I learned from taking all my vacation time this year…well, I plan on taking it all next year.

If you are a pastor, commit starting next year to take it all. If you are not a pastor, do all you can to encourage your pastor to take it. You, your church, and your pastor will experience multiple layers of benefit because of it

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"The Depressed Pastor"

Here is a excellent post by Paul David Tripp. This post will be useful for pastors to read as well as those who truly love their pastor and desire for him to be the pastor God has called him to be. I believe he hits the "nail on the head" when it comes to pastors setting themselves up for unrealistic expectations. Happy reading!

The Depressed Pastor: The Setup

I was there the week it happened. His wife asked to see me. Tearfully she told me that he'd walked into the church building that week and announced to his staff that he was "done." He said he couldn't face preaching another sermon; that all that he really wanted to do was to run away from his own life. Sam was forty-five and the pastor of a vibrant and growing church. I am convinced that there are important changes needed in pastoral culture, and that the number of pastors who find themselves in that range from discouraged to depressed gives clear evidence.

Let me suggest four potential setups of this discouragement/depression cycle.

1. Unrealistic Expectations. I taught a class at Westminster Seminary on pastoral care and I was alarmed year after year of how unrealistic the expectations of my future-pastor students were. Year after year my students seemed to forget the two things that consistently make pastoral ministry hard. What are they? The harsh reality of life in a dramatically broken world and what remaining sin does to the hearts of all of us. These two things make pastoral ministry a day by day spiritual war. But there’s another area of unrealistic expectations. It’s the congregation's unrealistic expectation of the pastor. Churches forget that they've called a person who's a man in the midst of his own sanctification. This tends to drive the pastor into hiding, afraid to confess whats true of him and everyone to whom he ministers. There's a direct connection between unrealistic expectations and deepening cycles of disappointment.

2. Family Tensions. There's often a significant gulf between the public persona of the ministry family and the realities of the day by day struggles in their home. We almost assume that the pastor will feel regularly torn between ministry and family and will often be forced to make "the lesser of two evils" choices. Yet this tension isn't a major theme in the Pastoral Epistles. Could it be that we're asking too much of our pastors? Could it be that, as pastors, we're seeking to get things out of ministry that we shouldn’t get and therefore make choices that potentially harm our families? This tension between family and ministry robs pastoral ministry of its joy and it’s seemingly insurmountability is a sure set up for depression.

3. Fear of Man. The very public nature of pastoral ministry makes it fertile soil for this temptation. I know what it's like to be all too aware of the critical person's responses to me as I’m preaching on a Sunday morning. I also know the temptation of thinking of what would win that person as I'm preparing the sermon! Fear of man is actually asking people to give you what only God can deliver. It’s rooted in a Gospel amnesia that causes me to seek again and again for what I’ve already been given in Christ. This tends to cause me to watch for and care too much about the reactions of others, and because I do this, to feel that I get way more criticism than I deserve. Each new duty begins to be viewed as another forum for the criticism of others and with this, the emotional life of the pastor begins to spiral downward.

4. Kingdom Confusion. It’s very tempting for the pastor to do his work in pursuit of glories other than the glory of God, and for purposes other than the purposes of God's kingdom. Personal acclaim and reputation, power and control, comfort and appreciation and ministry success are the subtle little kingdom idols that greet every pastor. Yet in pastoral ministry, the kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. It does a great job of masquerading as the kingdom of God because the way you seek to build the kingdom of self in ministry is by doing ministry!

The reality is that the God who the pastor serves has no allegiance whatsoever to the pastor's little kingdom of self. In fact I’m persuaded that much of the ministry opposition that we attribute to the enemy is actually God getting in the way of the little kingdom intentions of the pastor. It’s God, in grace, rescuing the pastor from himself. So as the pastor wants recognition, his Lord wants Gospel transformation. As God is calling the pastor to spiritual war, what the pastor wants is to be liked. As the pastor is wanting just a little bit of control, God is demonstrating that he’s in control. It's discouraging and exhausting to be serving God, yet not be on God's agenda page. This kingdom confusion robs the pastor of the deep sense of privilege that should motivate the service of every pastor. My pastor friend said it well to his wife, "I just want to go somewhere where life is easy!"

Depression in the pastor may be set up by the culture that surrounds him, but it’s a disease of the heart, and for that we have the presence, promises, and provisions of the Savior. Pastor, he’s in you and with you and for you. No one cares more about the use of your gifts than the Giver. No one cares more about your suffering than the One who suffered for you. And no one shoulders the burden of the church like the One who is the Head of the church and who gave himself up for it. In your despondency, don't run from him, run to him. Jesus really does offer you the hope and healing that you can find no where else.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Preaching Without Notes On Purpose" pt.1

About two months ago, one Lord's Day morning I entered the pulpit with everything but my sermon notes. Rather than make a scene and walk down to the front pew, I opened my bible and began to tell the people what God had said. I had studied the text throughout the week and by God's grace He brought back to my remembrance the things I had studied. As far as I know I did not make many mistakes (which I make using notes) or at least any heretical statements.
I have thought since then, how did Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and Peter preach to God's people? Did they use "sermon notes?" Please do not misunderstand me, I am NOT saying using notes is wrong. What I am wanting to share with you (especially preachers) is the freedom to look into your peoples eyes and teach them God's Word without using sermon notes. W.A. Criswell said, "Looking the man in the eye as you speak means that you are not staring at the wall or looking out a window or studying your shoelaces. If you are engaged in this, listeners are not sure where your remarks are directed. You are talking to your audience, so look at them.(Criswells Guidebook For Pastors, W.A. Criswell; p.51)"
So, this past week I intentionally studied with the intentions of NOT using any sermon notes so I could look my people in the eye. Totally reliant upon the Holy Spirit to lead and bring to remembrance the things I had studied throughout the week. It was some what horrifying at first. But as one pastor friend told me, "you just have to jump out of the plane and do it." It is amazing what the Lord gives you as you teach and preach His Word.
I am pretty sure my people where not blown away by my dynamic sermon outline. I am not sure if all my points were alliterated and my illustrations held their attention. I do know God has not called me to be master designer of sermons, but rather a faithful preacher of His word.I have discovered preaching is not really difficult at all. It is simply taking a portion of God's Word meditating upon it, explain it in its historical and grammatical context to the people, illustrate it from other scriptures in the bible or from real life experiences, and apply to God's people every day lives for practical application. I felt after my sermon from Joshua 6:15-27, that God used me to feed His sheep and tell His people the point of the passage we studied.
Will I use notes again? I am sure I will. Am I saying your wrong if you do use notes? No, I am not! I just wanted to share with you my experience this past week, one which I felt was liberating for me. By the way here are a few men who did not use sermon notes when they preached, Harry Ironside, T.W. Robertson, Charles Spurgeon, and George Whitfield. Here are a few men who memorized their sermons, Billy Sunday, Alexander Maclaren, J. Vernon McGee, and Dwight L. Moody. Here are some me who used sermon manuscripts, Phillip Brooks, Jonathon Edwards, and John Henry Jowett.
As you can see there is no certain way one should and can preach. God has used all different men who all used different approaches in preaching His Word. But I will close with another quote from W.A. Criswell, "the man of God is far more effective in the pulpit if he preaches with a Bible in his hand without taking along his study notes."
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think!