As you consider how to draw near to God during Lent, remember no matter what you give up, this is a season for surrender and renewal.
By Lizzy Haseltine
The countdown is on.
Lent has already begun, and Easter is only a month away.
By now, you may have spoken to your congregation or begun a sermon series on Lent, which turns Christians’ focus to prayer, fasting, and giving ahead of celebrating Christ’s resurrection.
Lent is a time for believers to practice daily dying to themselves by surrendering something important to them. Just as Jesus demonstrated obedience while being tempted by the devil in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, this season can help you experience more of God while relying less on the things of this world.
According to a Lifeway research study, U.S. Protestant pastors believe comfort (30%) and control (20%) are idols that have a notable influence on their church members. But what about you?
The following are five unconventional things every pastor can, and maybe even should, give up during this season of Lent.
Do you find yourself constantly on edge or filled with uncertainty? Are you under heavy financial stress, worried about low church attendance, or is a family issue consuming you?
Consider giving your anxieties to God, recognizing that He can do abundantly more than your worries ever will. Turn your eyes from the temporal things of this world to Jesus, trusting Him to meet your needs each day.
Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying?Matthew 6:25-27, CSB
If you’re struggling with worry, perhaps those anxieties are rooted in fear. Are you scared of failing as a pastor? Fearful of ruining your reputation?
If you find yourself in a fearful state of mind, know this is not from God, who repeatedly tells us in the Bible to not be afraid. God wants us to not be held back by our fears but to go forward with a mindset focused on His strength, love, and power.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.2 Timothy 1:7, CSB
As previously mentioned, many congregations struggle with the desire for control—but pastors do as well.
Maybe it seems things keep sliding beyond your grip and spiraling. While it’s difficult when life doesn’t happen as planned, facing the unexpected can help you realize how little control you have in your corner of the world.“While it’s difficult when life doesn’t happen as planned, facing the unexpected can help you realize how little control you have in your corner of the world.” — @LizzyHaseltine Click To Tweet
Challenge yourself to focus more on the spiritual discipline of self-control instead of attempting to dominate things beyond your reach. Take care of what God has given you to steward and surrender everything else to Him.
But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4:5, CSB
4. Unwholesome talk
Sadly, some church halls are known for being filled with gossip. At some point, you have probably come across unwholesome talk in church meetings or counseling sessions with your parishioners. While it can be easy to pass judgment or be frustrated with your congregation, it’s important to set an example and not let any harsh words flow from your own mouth.
Ask God to help you see your church as He sees them, and pray for them. Each time you want to complain about an issue or tough conversation, turn your thoughts to thanksgiving and lift up a simple praise to God.
My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger…James 1:19, CSB
Is your mind racing with 100 things to do? When did you last experience a quiet time with just you and God, without a sermon or agenda in mind?
According to the 2022 Greatest Needs of Pastors survey, 55% of pastors struggle with overworking or overcommitment.
If you find yourself among them, pray about which tasks you can re-delegate. Ask God to help you realize your heart’s posture is more important than your to-do list. Consider how you can better focus on God, setting an example for your congregation and positioning you to lead others to Him.“Ask God to help you realize your heart’s posture is more important than your to-do list.” — @LizzyHaseltine Click To Tweet
Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30, CSB
As you consider these ways to draw near to God during Lent, remember that no matter what you choose to give up, God knows your heart. Let this be a season of both surrender and renewal, recognizing that this world is not our home.
No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out so you may be able to bear it.1 Corinthians 10:13, CSB
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Lizzy is a content writer for non-profit ministries. For the past five years, she has traveled the world to tell stories of how God is moving.