Help Your Pastor “To Remember the Sabbath”

As a Lutheran, I grew up memorizing Luther’s Small Catechism, including Luther’s explanation to the commandment “to remember the Sabbath.”

We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despite preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it. (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 1160)

“The Sabbath” was defined in terms of spending time with God’s Word.

But, clearly the Bible also teaches that “The Sabbath” is a time for rest and rejuvenation. After six days of work, God rested. Is it too much to expect that people need time to rest?

John Piper has earned a national reputation as the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Years ago, I remember coming across Pastor Piper’s reference to a Pastor’s Accountability Form. Intrigued, I downloaded a copy of this form. Below is a helpful explanatory footnote on the subject of the pastor’s responsibility to take time “off” each week.

For the purpose of time invested into ministry and time off for rest and family, the pastors split each day into 3 Rest & Rejuvenation modules (morning, afternoon, & evening) or 21 modules a week. They have pledged to take off 7-10 R&R modules a week, and to take off 3 of these modules consecutively (to fulfill a Sabbath principle). Most pastors take their Sabbath on Fridays, and choose 4-7 other modules a week to take off.

Pastors at Bethlehem Church are expected to report their time taken for R&R—and their plan for making up time when they violate the Sabbath principle. The Employee Handbook, also, includes a Sabbatical Policy whereby pastors employed by Bethlehem can apply for a sabbatical (up to three months) every five years.

Taking time for God and God’s Word is essential, for every Christian. Obviously, this includes pastors.

But so, too, is taking time for R & R.

How disciplined is your pastor about taking time for R & R, each week?

Church leaders and church members, you need to hold your pastor accountable to take time to relax—in the form of an annual vacation, periodic sabbaticals, and 4-7 modules “off” each week in addition to a weekly day “off.”

Rest is not optional. It is essential for health. God commands it.

But, experience teaches that rest is impossible apart from a lot of grace! Life drives us to work more and to work harder. But, we must listen to God, who invites us to set aside time to rest.

Photo: Resting by Peter Dutton is licensed under CC by 2.0.