pastors

This is the 1st of a 4 part series on Habits for Spiritually Healthy Pastors.

I have quite a few habits I observe every day. For example, after dinner each night, I find a sweet treat, usually Oreos and milk, to finish dinner.

In the mornings, I make a pot of coffee and drink at least a cup each day. Also, in the mornings, I make time to read the Bible and pray. 

You have habits as well. Habits (good or bad) form who we are. Have you considered what your habits say about you?

Someone once said, “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.” 

We’re the product of our regular habits. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg suggests that habits have a cycle of routine, habit, and reward. 

In other words, we do out of habit, because we experience a benefit or reward from it. Our habits say a lot about us. So, what do your worship habits say about you?

Last fall, I preached a sermon series entitled “Habits of Healthy Church Members.” The series highlighted habits that reflect our church mission.

At Wilkesboro Baptist, our mission is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus by worshiping, learning, serving, and replicating. We noted three habits for each step in our church’s mission. 

In today’s article, I’m recommending three worship habits for spiritually healthy pastors. 

HABIT #1—HUMBLY PREPARE FOR WORSHIP.

One of my fellow pastors refers to the “unrelenting tyranny of the Sunday” regarding the regularity of sermon preparation and delivery.

If you’re anything like me, you have study and preparation routines throughout the week to make sure you’re ready for each Sunday.

It’s all too easy, however, to get so caught up in the reading, writing, and sermon preparation that I neglect prayer and personal application.

If you want to be spiritually healthy as a pastor, remember your need to prepare humbly. Build prayer and confession time into your office schedule and sermon preparation.

If God doesn’t draw hearts, there won’t be any lasting fruit, regardless of your skill, preparation, giftedness, and delivery.

HABIT #2—INTENTIONALLY ENGAGE IN WORSHIP. 

I know, you’re reading this and thinking, “How can I be more engaged? I’m preaching.” Well, what about the other aspects of worship? 

Are you singing with the congregation? Are you listening to the other portions of the service? Are you engaged by focusing on God, or distracted trying to remember the points of your sermon? 

Pastor, you’re the lead worshiper in your church. If you don’t sing, engage, and connect with the worship aspects in your services, how can you expect your congregation to participate? 

Finish sermon preparation before entering your sanctuary or worship center. Be engaged as you worship. Worship isn’t merely an activity to attend; it’s an attitude to reflect. 

You and your congregation will benefit greatly. More importantly, you’ll honor God with your worshipful engagement.

HABIT #3—GIVE GENEROUSLY AS WORSHIP. 

I have no idea how many pastors give a tithe or more than a tithe. But I know and believe this: pastors are the leaders in their congregations. 

If they’re not generous, how can they ask for generosity of others? Before you balk and say, “But you don’t know how much I make. It’s barely enough to make it each week,” stop and ask yourself: 

“Has God ever failed to meet my need?” In my life, the answer is a resounding, “No.” 

Trust God and give generously. He’ll provide. Trust God and give forgetfully. It only matters to God what you give. Don’t focus on it, and certainly don’t broadcast it.

Giving generously will remind you you’re part of the congregation you serve. It’ll create an attitude of investment and healthy ownership in your church community. It’ll also make you more like Christ. 

Simple habits, right? Maybe simple, but profound in their influence. 

In the next several months, I’ll post about the healthy habits of pastors in their learning, serving, and replicating. I know these aren’t exhaustive; they’re basic. 

But basic habits lived out regularly develop us into growing and fruitful followers of Jesus. What are some other worship habits we should adopt? I’d love to hear from you. 

Originally posted here at LifeWay Facts and Trends.

This article was originally posted at Lifeway’s Pastor’s Today Blog.

Recently, we had a birthday party for our oldest son, Will. His mother and I planned, prepared, and invited a handful of his friends. We spent a lot of time investing in his party. We expected his reaction to be wonder, enjoyment, and gratitude. What we received was complaint, ungratefulness, and pouting. Needless to say, we spent the rest of our evening attempting to teach our son the importance of gratitude and respect when others do something nice for you. This little experience got me thinking about some of the ways being a parent is like being a pastor.

  1. Sometimes our children are ungrateful. My wife and I were pretty disappointed in our son’s attitude regarding his party. We put a lot of time and effort into making a day all about him and didn’t receive any genuine gratefulness. This sometimes happens as a pastor. We invest, spend time, and pour ourselves into a parishioner or a ministry and receive little or no gratitude. It is easy to take such things personally. But we must not. While we should model gratitude for our children and our churches, we should move past our good deeds for others and onto the next person or assignment.
  2. Sometimes our children are disingenuous. When we pointed out our son’s failure to be grateful, he rather quickly told us, “Thank you for my party.” However, with scant a pause, he followed that up with more disrespect. He didn’t really mean the thank you. If you’ve been a pastor for long, you’ve had church members tell you to your face what you know they don’t mean in their heart. My personal favorite is when they tell you how good your sermon was when it appeared to you during the sermon that they were asleep for most of it. Now, I don’t think most of the comments coming from our church members are disingenuous, but some are. We have to learn to discern the truth and show grace when we hear disingenuous comments. Saying “thank you” and moving on is generally the best thing we can do.
  3. Sometimes our children are disobedient. It is our job as parents to correct and discipline our children, which are important aspects of teaching obedience. If we don’t teach them, then who will? As a pastor, there will be times that correcting a church member will be necessary. As with our children, correction must take place with compassion, deliberation, and consistency. Restoration to obedience is the goal, not pointing out the sin.
  4. Sometimes our children are needy. Sick little ones or those who are hurt may require more time and attention from their parents. This is a necessary part of parenting. Church members are no different. Those who are hurting, emotional, going through difficulty, or sick may need more attention from their church or pastor.
  5. Oftentimes, both parents and pastors feel overwhelmed. The tasks and expectations of parents and pastors are never-ending. Parents, there’s always somewhere else to go with your children, always something to clean, pick up, or fix, always homework or school projects to do, and on, and on. Pastors, there’s always the next sermon, the next lesson, the next counseling appointment, project, mission trip, or task. If we’re not careful, we’ll let our lives be run by our schedules and the next thing on our to-do list.
  6. Our children were created to grow up. Our privilege as parents is to assist the natural growth of our children. They were made to grow. Similarly, those we pastor were made to grow spiritually. It is our privilege to provide systems, ministries, and opportunities for the spiritual growth of those we lead.
  7. Our children bring us unprecedented joy. Witnessing their development, smiles, wonder, love, and dependence is incalculable. I realize that pastors are not parents to their parishioners as they are to their children. But in part, pastors have been tasked with the spiritual development of their congregation. Much joy comes from watching the spiritual growth of people. Seeing the relief and joy on the face of a new believer whose weight of sin has been lifted by Christ is incomparable. Experiencing a counselee apply the Scripture to their situation is spiritually satisfying. Or participating with church members give of themselves and their heart on a mission trip or project is deeply encouraging.
  8. No investment in life is as important as the investment in others, especially our children. When our life concludes, the influence we’ve had on our children will be one of the few things that will last beyond our days on earth. They will carry on our character, our values, and our names by the way they live their lives. While not as directly impactful, the investments we make in the lives of our congregation can also be far-reaching. Like being a parent, a pastor’s influence and impact is not defined by outward success, popularity, twitter followers, Facebook friends, or blog readers. The true impact of a pastor, like a parent, will be found in the relational investment of lives changed, disciples made, and people equipped for ministry.
  9. Ultimately, how our children and our congregations turn out is the Lord’s responsibility. Sometimes, being a parent and a pastor, we think we’re in control of the spiritual progress of our children and our congregations. We’re not. God is. Yes, we partner with God in the process of the spiritual development of those we parent and lead, but we are not ultimately responsible. Learning or in my case, relearning, that truth is deeply liberating and encouraging.

For those who are parents, let your parenting inform your responsibilities as a pastor. And to all, cast the burdens of being a parent or pastor on the Lord who is able to carry them.