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I worry for pastors these days.

We’re not meant to be distant from our people. We’re not used to preaching to the screen. We’re facing decisions about the future that are going to require much wisdom and that may be divisive. We face financial pressures. I get the sense that some of my colleagues are tired.

And the pandemic’s not over yet.

On top of that, we face a couple of pressures that may harm us more than they help right now.

The Pressure to Optimize

I really like the articles “Leading Beyond the Blizzard” and “Strategies for Winter” by Praxis Labs. I believe we face an opportunity to recalibrate for the future and make needed adjustments in our ministries. I was encouraged to receive a text from a pastor who’s excited by the opportunity to become more intentional in ministry. So yes, we have an opportunity to optimize.

I worry about the pressure on pastors to continually spin every event as an opportunity.

But I worry about the pressure on pastors to continually spin every event as an opportunity. The chart won’t always trend in an upward direction. Ministry comes in seasons, and winter is as essential (although, in my books, less enjoyable) as spring. What if God is pruning his church right now? Could we miss what he’s trying to teach us by spinning everything as a plus? Perhaps we need to make room for lament.

Don’t get me wrong. Let’s evaluate and be more intentional. But let’s not give into society’s script of making everything bigger and better than it is before. Sometimes it’s best to let the land lay fallow and to pay attention to the season we’re in even as we look to the future.

The Pressure to Be Productive

If I have a weakness (and according to my wife, I have a few), it’s that I let myself become too busy. You probably haven’t read too many productivity books that I haven’t, and yet I still often find myself struggling with becoming overcommitted. I’m slowly learning the importance of doing less, but doing those few things with joy and intentionality.

And I’m learning the importance of rest.

I’m a little worried that pastors are becoming a little too obsessed with squeezing as much as we can out of every moment, and not pacing ourselves for the long race before us.

In his book Reset, David Murray writes of Christians who refuse to “receive the grace of a weekly Sabbath, the grace of sufficient sleep, the grace of physical exercise, the grace of family and friends, or the grace of Christian fellowship.” These are gifts God has given us. “Yes, it is more blessed to give than to receive. But if we don’t do any receiving, our giving soon dries up.” I’m concerned that we’re so focused on staying productive during this pandemic that we may be missing out on some of these good gifts.

Lament and Rest

Pastors face uncommon pressures these days. Yes, they should look to the future and prepare for what’s coming. But they must also resist the pressure to bow to our culture’s idols of unbridled success and productivity.

Take time to mourn. Pay attention to what God may be teaching us. Lament. Rest. Take a nap. Read a book. We’re in it for the long haul. For God’s glory, and the good of your people, please take good care in these challenging days.