Since I am not preaching at Calvary March 8 and 15th, I am posting an article in two parts that discusses a practice of mine related to my ministry of the Word. I take a personal prayer and planning retreat 3-4 times a year. It is one of the best things I do for my ministry. I hope that our church family and anyone in ministry will benefit from reading this article I wrote. It was published in Today’s Christian Preacher a couple of years ago. Part 2 will be posted next week.
It is better to be proactive than reactive in dealing with busyness, stress, and exhaustion. Rather than waiting until symptoms of burnout surface in his life, a wise man in ministry will implement practices that will enable him to grow and thrive while bearing the heavy burdens of pastoral responsibility. One of the best ways a pastor can enjoy deep and sweet fellowship with God and maintain a strong, rich preaching ministry is to regularly take a personal retreat. A time away for prayer, study, and planning can produce renewed energy, a refreshed spirit, and fruitful study that will significantly strengthen a pastor’s personal life and public ministry.
There are some scriptural reasons for taking a retreat like this. Jesus set the example. Mark 1:35 records of Jesus Christ that, “. . . in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” He did this after expending physical and spiritual energy in preaching and in ministering to the needs of individual people. Jesus regularly retreated for the express purpose of prayer (Mark 6:46; Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12; Luke 22:39-42). He encouraged His disciples to “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). The apostles established priorities for preachers of all time when they said, “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables . . . But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2,4). Both our Master and the first church leaders drew away from the busyness of ministry activity in order to devote themselves to prayer and preparation for preaching.
There are also practical reasons for having a personal retreat. It is nearly impossible to give sustained attention to prayer and study in the midst of a regular schedule. Routine tasks, pressing projects, and the endless needs of people demand your time and concentration. Even when you steal away to pray you must often get up from your knees before you are truly finished communing with your Lord. You may shut the door of your office to study, but there are a hundred distractions around you. You often close your Bible and put your notes away knowing that another hour or two of continued study might have yielded clearer understanding of the text and enabled you to capture its meaning in words potent for preaching. When you retreat for several days, you can indulge your passion for prayer and appetite for study. Not having a tight schedule frees you to enjoy the adventure of investigating the eternal truths of God’s Word. You can go much deeper and farther than you are able within the confines of your daily routine.