There are several words that I can think of to describe pastors. But topping the list would have to be the word committed. I know that if you have been in church for any length of time you may have encountered a pastor who didn’t seem very committed or just wasn’t committed at all. There are reasons for both of those that I will explain later. Just to be clear, I am referring to the dictionary’s definition that says: “bound or obligated to a person or thing, as by pledge or assurance; devoted”. To make double sure you understand, I am NOT talking about the definition that says: “placed in confinement (as in a mental institution)”. However, I’m sure that you have met a pastor that may seem like they belong in a mental institution… and I’ll also explain the reasons for that as well.
When I turned 5 or 6 years old, my parents had a birthday party for me. There were several kids from church and a few from the neighborhood that came. During the party I remember the house phone ringing and my dad going in to answer it. On the other end of the phone was a member of the church telling my dad that their loved one had a health issue and it looked like they weren’t going to make it but just a few more hours. My dad excused himself from the party and went to be with the family. He returned home a few hours later and the person hadn’t passed away. Actually, they didn’t pass away for quite some time. When this happened (and still to this day) I do not fault my father for leaving the party. He was pastoring a church where there was no other pastor(s) on staff. My mom was the church secretary and it was up to him to make sure that the congregation was cared for. He told this story to someone not long ago and said that if he had it to do over again, he would have just told the family to call him when they had finally died! I don’t think he would have actually said that but I believe that now he can look at certain situations through the lens of his experience and he knows how and when to respond. Nonetheless, he has always been committed to the congregation that was under his care.
Proverbs chapter 16 verse 3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” This passage is such a challenge and is equally hard to live out. So many times, as a pastor, you need to have a plan for the future. The church has a calendar and the more full the calendar, the more successful the church seems to be. But, in Thom Rainer’s book, Simple Church he sheds light on how untrue that myth is. See, many pastors live a life where if they are seen not doing something, leading something, visiting someone, praying with someone, getting coffee, lunch or dinner with someone, being at the church every time the doors are open, preparing for a preaching series, leading a mens bible study, leading a small group or even being at a birthday party or anniversary of your second cousins third child, they aren’t a good pastor. The expectations of pastors is a tall order. In the busyness of life, pastors take Proverbs 16:3 and live it in reverse. They are often forced to establish the plans and then commit those to the Lord in hopes that He will bless it. It’s a tough way to live that is different than any other vocation.
My sister is a nurse and I have many friends who work in the medical field. They are a committed group of people. They are committed to making their patients comfortable while they are at the hospital and they are committed to making sure the patient has the shortest stay in the hospital as possible. But, once the patient leaves the hospital, their level of commitment for that patient is done. You can find a lot of teachers who are committed. Many of them are only committed to their students during school hours. Few of them continue the commitment to the student’s learning after school hours are done. There are even fewer (if any) that are committed to their students learning during summer break. But not for pastors. Pastors have a deep commitment to their people from first breath to final breath. From the celebration of marriage to walking (sometimes) with that same couple through divorce. While many pastors have a “day off” very few pastors actually get to enjoy a true day off and even fewer have more than 1 “day off” a week. While you and your family plan a weekend getaway, Pastors are planning their Sunday service(s). Even though pastors get vacation time, many of them feel guilty for being away from their church over a Sunday morning.
To explain why many pastors don’t seem committed or just aren’t committed could be due to burnout. Burnout happens to many different people in different work situations. According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a type of job stress in which you might feel physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. You might also question your career choice and the value of your contribution at work. The top 10 occupations with high burnout rates are: Physician, Nurse, Social Worker, Teacher, School Principal, Attorney, Police Officer, Public Accountant, Fast Food and Retail. For some of you, this may be hard to understand or believe but many times a pastor has to wear the “hats” of many of the above-mentioned occupations in a day or a weeks time. So, if a pastor needs to prepare a message for Sunday and be the “social worker” or “teacher” for someone in his/her congregation, it wears them thin. Not to mention the many pastors who are bi-vocational and have to work through and wear the many hats of a pastor on top of their full time job. If these kinds of expectations happen day after day and week after week, you can understand how it could drive a pastor to become mentally unstable and fit the 2nd definition of the word committed.
How does Restoration Farm fit into this portion of a pastor’s life? Our desire is to prepare a place where a pastor and their family can come and get away from the pressures, stresses and demands of ministry. We have a heart for those pastors who are feeling overwhelmed, over worked and need time away. We know that the ministry of Restoration Farm will be a place where many find healing and restoration. There are other places out there that are doing a similar work but the cost of just one night at their facility could be as much as $250 for a family of 4. As a pastors son and now a pastor myself, I know that we couldn’t afford something like that when I was a kid and honestly can’t afford something like that now. Our desire is not to burden a pastors pocketbook as well as their mental capacity to figure out where the funds are going to come from to stay at Restoration Farm. We believe that God will set things in motion for this to be a free or minimal charge for someone in need. We also desire for the family to walk into the facility and be “wowed” while taking a sigh of relief. We know that God has blessed both Tiffany and I with the gift of this burden and to bless other pastors the way our families were at one time or another blessed. We both have a strong desire and commitment to see this happen. Much of what you are reading is the way that Tiffany and I are pursuing to follow after Proverbs 16:3. We want to commit this idea of Restoration Farm to Him and His Glory and let Him establish our plans. We understand that if we get this turned around in any way, it becomes about us and not about Him. We desire for Him to get the Glory, for His shepherds to continue to lead their flock and for their wellbeing to preach the Gospel.
Father God, I lift up those brothers and sisters who are struggling to serve you today. There are many who are going through their week and they are wondering if they have what it takes to make it to Sunday. They feel inadequate. They feel stressed and overworked. They sense that they are not as committed as they once were. I pray that you would go to them even now and give them the strength to make it through another week. I also pray that as you are continuing to form the vision of Restoration Farm in our hearts and minds that you would prepare the way for this to become a reality soon. Many are in need of personal restoration so that they can have personal time to be fed by you. Would you keep Tiffany and I committed to your call to lead Restoration Farm from a dream to the reality you want it to be. Keep us strong and help us to serve you and those who serve you well. Amen.