Indolence in the Pastorate

Dirty Hands

Lazy pastors fill pulpits around this country. There are few professions that allow a man so much freedom to be a sluggard. We can pick a few key points from a commentary or an online sermon on Friday and have a decent sermon on Sunday. We can waste our days on worthless pursuits such as online debates that have little bearing on our life, our congregation or our spiritual growth. We do not plan and organize for the future as we ought to. We have thousands of resources at our disposal and we use few of them to minister to our people. We don’t have a visitation schedule where we shepherd our congregations “house to house” as Paul says he did in Acts 20:20. We read the easy books and refuse to dig in deep to those that bend our minds and force us to think.

Pastor Harry Reeder’s book The Dynamic of Leadership is excellent in many areas. But one of the strengths is the drumbeat throughout the book that leaders work hard.  In a chapter titled “The Marks of an Effective Christian Leader” he list three traps for Christian leaders to avoid. The first is indolence. Here is that section.

Indolence is nothing more than habitual laziness. Followers are dependent on leaders, and there is no room for habitual laziness in leadership. Certainly work must be measured and planned and must include rest and recreation, but a  Christian leader should never be vulnerable to the accusation of laziness. The book of Proverbs teaches that laziness is the sign of an undisciplined, unmotivated lifestyle and does not glorify God. In contrast, the lifestyle of a genuine Christian leader is marked by industriousness. Scripture reveals that Jesus was never hurried or frenzied, yet he was always going “straightway” or “immediately” to the next divine appointment. His lifestyle was energetic but focused, and he properly sustained leadership activity with appropriate periods of physical and spiritual renewal and rest. An industrious leader is prepare for a crisis and its accompanying demands, and he doesn’t contribute to it by carelessness or indolence. A genuine leader doesn’t relish a crisis, but is prepared to meet it and will not be AWOL when the moment of crisis arrives.

As a reformed pastor I am always stunned at the output of the 16th and 17th centuries. So much was done. So many books written. Confessions and catechisms poured out. Men worked for decades on projects. Cities and countries were changed. The fabric of Europe was quite different in 1699 than it was in 1499. How did all this happen? God in His grace gave the church pastors and teachers who worked like dogs. It was not magic. It was sermon after sermon, pamphlet after pamphlet, book after book, meeting after meeting, lecture after lecture, pastoral rebuke after pastoral rebuke for decades.

Fellow pastors most of our work is done in secret. We pray. We read. We study. We write. Are those hours in the study productive? Do we squander our time with vain pursuits? Are the members of our congregation and their spiritual growth always before us? Are we maturing theologically and in the spiritual disciplines? Are we planning for growth? Are we making new leaders who will plant churches? What will we leave behind? We cannot all write dozens of books. Most of our churches will not exceed two to three hundred and many will be less than that. But we can all work hard, really hard in and for our congregations. We can use resources to help our people grow. We can preach better. We can meet with them regularly. We can pray with greater zeal and purpose. We can sacrifice for them financially. Could it be that one of the reasons the church is in such a dire position today is that pastors have refused to work hard? Can the church grow if we do not put our hands to the plow year after year?

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops (2Ti 2:3-6).