According to Lifeway Research, 64% of pastors say consistency in taking a Sabbath is something that’s important and needs their personal investment. Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist O’Fallon, Illinois, joins Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, to discuss the Greatest Needs of Pastors study and why taking Sabbath is hard for pastors.
Ben Mandell: I am here with Doug Munton, who is the pastor of First Baptist O’Fallon, Illinois. Doug, thanks for being here.
Doug Munton: I’m honored to be here.
Ben Mandrell: We’re talking to pastors about the struggle of being a pastor. Lifeway Research is releasing some studies that find pastors say they really struggle in taking Sabbath and resting. What would you say to that? Why is that such a struggle?
Doug Munton: I think a lot of them feel indispensable, which we are not. I can just assure you of that. So I’ve been at O’Fallon… I’m in year 27 now. So my first tendency was —like a lot of young pastors— that I’m never gonna be gone. I’ll never miss two weeks in a row… blah, blah, blah. It was a terrible idea. If you were a lumberjack… and I bet you used to be a lumberjack…
Ben Mandrell: Oh yeah, I’ve done a lot of that.
Doug Munton: Oh, I bet you were. Once in a while, you’re going to sharpen the ax. Right? You’re going to sharpen the ax. It’s not just how hard you work. It’s about how effective you are.
Ben Mandrell: That’s good.
Doug Munton: And so I finally said, all right, I need to take my day off. I need to take my vacation. And on occasion, our church will even give me a sabbatical, because I’m better for the church. They get more out of me if I take time away. And I think when you realize that… it’s probably good for you to be away. It’s good for your family for you to be away. And it’s also good for your church for you to be away and recharge and re-energize. But a lot of pastors haven’t seen that. So they feel indispensable. You know, “They have to have me.” The church will be okay.
Ben Mandrell: Okay. I’m going to object because there’s a guy out there saying, “Hey, you don’t understand my context. Man, I don’t have a backup preacher. I don’t have… Things fall apart when we leave. Doug, I just can’t do that.” So what would you say to that guy?
Doug Munton: It doesn’t fall apart as much as you might think, you know? It just doesn’t. And you have to plan a little bit. And that’s part of the issue. If you’ve got a director of missions in your local association, that guy might in advance plan to be there for a couple of weeks in a row. And by the way, a couple of weeks in a row is a really good way to take some time away on occasion. And it is hard. And sometimes people don’t understand. But I think you have to say to the congregation, “This is in your best interest as well, because I need to be alone with God without all the distractions of life. Sometimes I need to recharge and re-energize.” Goodnight. Jesus Himself went off to a solitary place to pray.
Ben Mandrell: That’s right.
Doug Munton: So, if Jesus did it, maybe we ought to think about that.
Ben Mandrell: Let me flip the coin. What does a non- resting pastor look like?
Doug Munton: He’s tired. I mean, I get it. You get tired in ministry. It’s not bad to get tired, but he’s tired. He’s discouraged. He’s frustrated. It’s hard for him to see the future. It’s hard for him to dream big dreams. He gets beaten down. You have a tendency to make small things into giant things. I mean, all of that happens as a result of being tired and not spending time refocusing.
And I think there are some real blessings in that. Like I say, I don’t know that I know all the answers. I’m just saying I’ve been long enough now in ministry that I’ve found it to be true for me, and I bet it is for others.
Ben Mandrell: So what you’re saying is: When you address the tired thing, you solve a lot of other problems too. Vision. Energy. Vitality. Irritability. All that stuff.
Doug Munton: Irritability. Yeah. I forgot that one.
Ben Mandrell: Grumpy pastors— people love them.
Doug Munton: They love it.
Ben Mandrell: They love a grumpy pastor.
Doug Munton: That’s what they’re asking. Usually, the pastor search team wants to find out how irritable you are.
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