This past week I attended a pastor’s conference at Harvey Cedars entitled: “The Faithful Shepherd -Persevering in Ministry”. I wasn’t exactly sure what the conference would consist of as it was being led by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and I had never attended any of their conferences prior to this week. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a Presbyterian and Reformed group that are holding forth the Word of God in truth in those denominations. So I wasn’t exactly sure how the teaching would be but it sounded like a really good theme so I decided to go. It turned out to be very encouraging week for me and Patrice who is a church planter using building space here at New Durham Chapel who I brought along with me. Much of the teaching centered on the importance of the pastor’s self-care. The various sessions were entitled: “the pastor and the Scriptures”, “the pastor and a band of brothers”, “the pastor’s friends and mentors” and then the final session was “the pastor’s self-care: rest, exercise and play”. This final session about the pastor’s rest, exercise and play is what I would like to share some reflections on in this week’s blog. This summer I will be completing my 30th year in full-time Christian ministry (Aug.) but I think this was actually the first time in all the various pastor’s conferences and functions that I attended that the theme of rest, exercise, and play was expounded for the pastor’s encouragement. The speaker, Dr. Dan Doriani, began with a very familiar text from Romans 12:1 which reads, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship”, (NIV). I’ve heard many messages on this particular passage but Dr. Dan focused on the word “body” as it relates to our physical body and then tied that in with the other three topics of his message. He talked about the importance of having rest in ministry. Back when I was at my first church in Michigan I was pastoring full-time while seeing 12 to 15 clients a week in counseling. To say that this was a stressful time in my life would not be an overstatement but I realized at that time the importance of having a Sabbath rest. So with my very busy schedule I committed Monday to be my regular day off. I still work hard to try to keep a regular Sabbath rest. It’s very difficult if people don’t seem to regard the fact that the pastor needs to have regular time for rest and reflection. In my current ministry I generally take Tuesdays off because that corresponds to my wife’s day off from her job. But probably most of the folks in my own church wouldn’t be able to tell you what day I take off though it’s in the bulletin every Sunday. Most pay no attention to that information, as they feel the pastor should always be available for them whenever their in need.
I also realized in those days, as was again discussed on Wednesday morning, the importance of taking regular vacations. Because as a pastor I’m on call 24/7 and live right next door to the church I’m never away from my job. The only time I can get away is to go away and so I do take regular vacations. Much of our vacation these days is spent trying to engage and stay connected with my two grandsons in Michigan who are now 12 and 8 years old. This doesn’t always make for the most relaxing time but it is an investment that we have chosen to make into the lives of our grandsons. We make every effort to have them come out and be here for our church’s Vacation Bible School so that they can be ministered to and that we can represent Christ before them. The other thing that was interesting to me about this message was the talk about the need for regular exercise. Because pastoral ministry for the most part lacks any kind of physical activity it is very important for the pastor to have some kind of exercise routine or pattern in our lives. He shared from 1 Timothy 4:8 which reads: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come,” (NIV). Paul says in this passage that physical training or exercise has some value. But Paul himself was a person that probably walked somewhere around 9000 miles on his three missionary journeys. So Paul got plenty of physical exercise just in doing his ministry. Most pastors aren’t logging in these kind of miles walking to their parishioners homes, at least not in America. I usually go to the gym five or six mornings a week. I do not go and work out because I enjoy working out. I do not enjoy working out, I endure working out. I must work out relatively hard in order to keep my body in relatively good shape. I’m hopeful the hour to hour and a half that I spend at the gym most mornings is somehow positively affecting my physical health. I believe it is important if we are to go on with the Lord in serving Him to stay as healthy as we possibly can. Because I have had struggles with food issues over the last 20 years (I say as we prepare for our Taste of the World food event in three weeks) it is very important for me at this time to stay physically active. During this session he also talked about food and pointed out the fact that much of what we consume today is not really food but rather calorie delivery systems. I need to be more diligent in watching my food intake and praying that God would show me ways to eat a healthier diet. I want to continue to persevere in ministry and so I believe it is very important for me to get regular rest, exercise and time away. I don’t know when the Lord Jesus Christ is returning for the church or for me but I do know I want to keep serving Him as best as possible and that involves not only staying fit spiritually but also emotionally and physically as well. Rest, exercise, and play are all part of presenting my body as a living sacrifice so that the Lord Jesus Christ can continue to use me in whatever ways He sees fit. I hope that you too will commit to heart health and spiritual growth as you continue to pursue your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Shalom in Jesus,
Pastor Rich Sivo