By Maina Mwaura
I grew up in a great church. When I reflect on my childhood and church youth group years, I have fond memories.
So when God called me into ministry, I saw it as a positive. Even 20-plus years later, I have an exceptionally fond view of ministry.
However, one area that has been a struggle in my ministry journey is taking time off to rest and pray. Looking back at my early years in ministry, I didn’t have a healthy model of time management from people I considered mentors.
One of the pastors that I worked for told me there was no need to rest if you enjoy what you do. But that take on work and rest runs counter to Scripture. God commands us to take a Sabbath day.
Throughout my time in ministry, I’ve had to learn the importance of resting and praying the hard way. Here are a few reasons it’s necessary.
1. God commands rest.
I hate to admit this, but early on in my ministry, I was forced to take time off.
When I look back at that season of my ministry, everything was going seemingly well. I had just helped the church finish a $4 million project and the student ministry was growing.
But when I look back, there were some cracks inside of my soul because it hadn’t been nurtured. I was running on “10” and not taking any days off until the dam finally broke. I had become too emotionally crippled and tired.
Thankfully, I was on staff at a great church that nurtured me back to emotional and spiritual health. In Robert Morris’ book Take the Day Off he states:
“God thought resting was so important, that He put it in the top ten list (Ten Commandments). For just a moment, just think about it, God thought resting was so important that he put it in the same list as not murdering, coveting, and putting no other God’s before Him, He thought that much about resting.”
This is a serious problem for people in ministry. I couldn’t agree with him more. God commands us to take time off. It’s time to put our trust in Him and not ourselves.
2. Resting renews your mind.
The year before I crashed, the only days I took off were Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a miracle I didn’t wreck my testimony and my ministry.
I was still preaching and reading the Bible daily, but I wasn’t taking it in and allowing God’s word to fill me.
It’s easy to think we’re doing the will of God because we’re preaching and reading the Bible. However, there’s a stark contrast between doing the work of ministry and being renewed by it.
One is doing and the other is being. God wants us to renew our minds. You can’t do that unless you take the time to rest.
3. Rest creates more space for prayer.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
During my crash season, a fellow minister of staff read Matthew 11:28-30 to me. Although I had read the passage before, it was the first time it ministered directly to my soul.
I find that when I have truly rested, I can hear from God in ways I couldn’t before.
I recently spent some time with pastor and author Jarrett Stephens discussing his new book in which he explains that a believer can’t grow outside of prayer. Without rest, it’s difficult to hear from God clearly.
4. Rest promotes accountability.
After my crash, I decided I was going to schedule regular days off, which ended up being Fridays, and schedule my vacation times a year in advance.
I also decided to take one more step: to invite accountability in this commitment to rest. I have my wife and three of my friends hold me accountable. I love ministry, but I now understand that it can become an idol.
Although ministry is a high and noble calling, God never calls us to place it above Him. By taking time off to rest, we are showing that we trust God and His will for our lives.
MAINA MWAURA is a freelance journalist and minister who lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Tiffiney, and daughter Zyan.