As an introverted pastor and ministry leader, Monday is the toughest day of the week. After a Sunday of ministry where I find myself around lots of people, on Mondays I’m tired, depleted, and sometimes discouraged. (It is rumored that most pastors quit on Mondays.)
I was bemoaning my plight to my wife after a long Monday. “I just feel drained,” I whined.
She looked at me and asked bluntly, “Did you have your quiet time Sunday morning?” This question would change my ministry perspective and would ultimately raise my game as a pastor.
Ministry in any form is a challenging endeavor. To be a skilled practitioner in any field, time and energy are required, but ministry requires a supernatural, spiritual strength that cannot be manufactured. When faced with the fatigue of ministry, I am often reminded of the prophet Elijah.
Elijah had slayed all the wicked prophets, called down fire, and prayed for rain. If that wasn’t enough, he then outpaced Ahab’s chariot. Most would call this a good day of ministry, but move to the next scene and we find Elijah sitting under the broom tree asking God to kill him.
I stood on Mount Carmel in January. It was the highest vantage point around, but as the guide pointed into the distance, I realized for the first time that the brook where Elijah killed the prophets was quite a hike down the hill. By my estimation, Elijah would have gone up to sacrifice, come down to execute the prophets, gone back up to pray, and run back down the mountain to beat the chariot. He would have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually depleted.
The highs and lows of ministry are real.
As ministry leaders, God has gifted us individually with skills and abilities to carry out our specific callings. Jesus has given spiritual gifts and natural strengths, both of which can edify and encourage the body. But in and of ourselves we do not have limitless strength.
If armed only with our spiritual gifts and talents, we might think we’re an irreplaceable fixture in our church’s life. We might make ministry about ourselves and not about our Savior. But ministry has a way of quickly bringing us to an end of ourselves—to our Monday. As I contemplated my wife’s question, I had to admit that before serving on Sundays, I would often give myself a pass when it came to my time alone with the Lord. After all, there were sermons to polish, lessons to teach, people to shepherd, and details to track. I was doing the Lord’s work. Surely, he would understand.
I admitted to my wife that I had not had my quiet time on Sunday. She looked at me incredulously. “But you are the pastor!”
This was a hard pill to swallow. Her surprise was justified; somewhere along the line I had missed the mark. My wife had begged the question: Could time in the word on Sunday really make that big of difference on Monday?
That week my habits began to change. I got up a little early on Sunday to spend time sitting at Jesus’ feet. Any given Sunday you can now find me on the opposite end of the couch from my wife with a cup of coffee and my Bible. My plan is the same that it has been for the last decade: I read through the Bible in a year, but now I utilize Sundays.
I used to think it was the caffeine that helped me get through Sunday, but I have learned that time with the Lord on Sunday gets me through my Monday. Isaiah 40:31 is still true: “Those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
My prayer for ministry leaders is that our utter dependency on the Savior and his word will grow in the midst of ministry rigors. Like Elijah, may we be drawn to the same still small voice that has the power to not only rend the mountains and still the sea, but also strengthen us for today and steel us tomorrow, even if tomorrow is Monday.
Michael Kramer is discipleship pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church of Benton.