Recently, we shared a resource called ReGather that was the curation of conversations our regional ministry partners had with groups of pastors across the state. These conversations were focused on plans for the fall and the preparation for this opportune season in life of our churches.
In the midst of the conversations, pastors shared their personal stories and struggles through the pandemic. Mark Dance has written a great article that not only summarizes what was shared but provides some practical guidance for a pastor related to his personal well-being.
As leaders, an important part of our personal wellbeing is our spiritual health and growth. I want to encourage the pastors and church leaders of Oklahoma Baptists churches to take care of yourselves spiritually. Here are few important disciplines—nothing new—that will help sustain and strengthen you through the hectic summer and the hard work the fall will bring.
First, make your personal time with the Lord a priority in your day. For me, that means the first thing in the morning. I want to start my day with the Lord in the Word of God, sitting before Him. I am reading through the Bible this year with a group of folks from Muskogee, First, where I am serving as their transitional pastor.
Every morning the Lord shows me something I need for the day. I spend time in prayer while trying to practice the discipline of sitting in silence before the Lord. Those who know me well know that is a challenge, but the Lord is using that time to focus me at the start of the day.
I have heard some wonderful stories of personal spiritual renewal during the pandemic, but I have also hear numerous pastors and church leaders talk about getting out of the rhythm of spending that daily time with the Lord. If you do not practice this discipline, it is time to get started. If you have drifted away from the practice, it is time to come back. If you have this daily discipline, stay strong. We need this time for the spiritual strength to serve our Lord and shepherd His people.
Second, make sure you are connected to people God can use to strengthen and challenge you. This may be a small group that you meet with regularly or a person or two whom you have spiritual conversations with regularly.
For many ministry leaders, the pressures of the pandemic caused them to become isolated from their support system. Isolation is one of the evil one’s great tools he uses to keep us from Lord’s purpose in our lives.
Let me encourage you to reconnect if you have become disconnected. Those whom you meet with and share with need you as much as you need them. If you do not have someone that you regularly share with, study with and pray with, be intentional about making that connection. We need the strength we draw from each other to serve our Lord and shepherd His people.
Third, make your time of corporate worship with your church family significant. Sadly, pastors are often distracted during the worship service on Sunday mornings. Thinking about the sermon they are about to preach or the conversation they had in the hall often causes them to simply go through the motions in their worship.
The Lord convicted me many years ago about the need in my life to worship with my church family. I was reminded of the value of this during the first Sunday of in-person worship following the shutdown at the start of the pandemic last year. When I stood with the church to sing from my front row seat, and I heard the people behind me lifting their voices to the Lord, my heart was moved to a depth of emotion. I did not realize how much I missed gathering with the church and hearing the congregation sing.
Worshipping with the body of Christ renews my soul. We need the strength that comes through corporate worship of the church to serve our Lord and shepherd His people.
As we race through this summer of returning to camps and Vacation Bible School, take care of yourself spiritually. As you put in the hard work of getting ready for this very important fall, do not forget your time with the Lord. We need the spiritual energy for the task at hand, as we serve our Lord and shepherd His people.