This month we’ve talked about managing your time as a pastor. This is an important topic that pastors (really, everyone!) should continue to think about. We are finite individuals with a limited amount of time in our days, weeks, and months. If we are going to maximize our time in order to love our families and lead our churches in Christ-honoring and people-loving ways, we need to pay attention to our calendars.
Unfortunately, pastors have not always set a good example when it comes to time management. Some have wasted their time, failing to make the most of God-given opportunities. Others have worked at such a pace that their health has suffered. Our hope is that we (and you) wouldn’t fall off either side of the horse. We want to sit squarely in the saddle, working hard and resting well.
When it comes to pastors who might have worked at such a pace that their health suffered, I think of John Calvin. I’m writing my dissertation on Calvin and aspects of his soteriology. He is a fascinating man who simply produced. He wrote letters, preached sermons, authored books, engaged in the political sphere, and pastored churches. Yet, much of what he was able to do is because he worked himself to death, perhaps literally. It is has been well documented that Calvin’s work ethic, though admirable, was perhaps the cause of some of his pains.
Philip Schaff writes, “By his excessive industry he stored his memory with valuable information, but undermined his health, and became a victim to headache, dyspepsia, and insomnia, of which he suffered more or less during his subsequent life” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 304). Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza, wrote that Calvin “slept almost walking…” (quoted in W. J. Grier, The Life of John Calvin, 75). Again, in the discipline displayed in the life and ministry of the Genevan reformer, we have much to learn. Hard work is not something to shy away from. And yet, it seems there were excesses in Calvin’s calendar. Though Calvin wrote a good bit on the book of Genesis, perhaps he could have spent more time considering why God called mankind to work and rest. If he had included rest in what it meant to redeem the time, maybe he would have lasted a bit longer on this earth and witnessed even greater fruit from his labors. Calvin is simply one example of a pastor who tried to make the most of his time but fell off one side of the horse. There are others, of course, that have fallen on the other side and have simply squandered opportunities to accomplish significant things due to laziness.
So how do we respond today? Well, again, we try to sit squarely in the saddle. In all our writing this month we have not intended to undermine a healthy work ethic. We are not advocating passivity or laziness. Writing about scheduling our priorities, using a block schedule, getting enough sleep, and the calendar of John Calvin, are meant to admonish us to manage our time in Christ-exalting and people loving ways. Perhaps we need to do better with our schedules so we can accomplish more. Perhaps we need to schedule rest into our crowded week. The point is, take time to think more carefully about how you’re using the hours and minutes God has given you.
In short, what we’ve tried to do is call pastors specifically (and all Christians generally) to be mindful of how they deal with the busyness of life and ministry. That’s the point, right? Life is busy. Ministry is often draining. Time is short. There is always something to do. Idleness is tempting. Because of those realities, we think you should thoughtfully approach your calendar. You should plan to work hard and rest appropriately. But those things usually do not just happen. They require planning.
May the Lord help you find the time to sit down and develop a plan that helps you steward your life in Christ-exalting and people-loving ways.