Recently, Landon Whitsitt, the current Vice-Moderator of the PCUSA posted a blog entry entitled – Pastors: “Go the F^(% Home”. Here is where I think that the post misses the mark.
I want to preface my remarks by saying that I think that Landon’ heart is generally in the right place with his post. He obviously loves the Church. As the Vice-Moderator of a large mainline denomination I am sure that he sees a lot of burned-out pastors on a regular basis and I am positive that he genuinely wants the best for them. This desire to care for those that he serves is admirable. That being said, I am pretty sure that telling them to “Go the expletive home” is not necessarily the right call for a couple of reasons. Before you continue here, I would encourage you to go to Landon’s site, read his remarks, watch the embedded video included in the post, and then come on back for my observations.
The post starts by saying “If you’re working more than 40 hours a week, you’re doing it wrong.” For a pastor I think that that statement is simply nonsense. Who aside from God is qualified to determine how many hours qualifies as doing “the job right”? Biblically there are times when God calls people into specific tasks for 40 Days straight, much less forty hours. My advice here is to do what God tells/leads you to do in order to accomplish the task that God has set before you.
This of course means that we actually have to be listening for God’s directives. Maybe what the church needs is for pastors to spend more time asking what God requires of them. I personally find enjoyment in serving the Lord. Why would someone deprive me of that enjoyment when it benefits me and others?
In my opinion, as a pastor, I am not “just a business asset”. I am also not “simply a factor of production” – Nor am I simply “trading my time for money”. I am called by Jesus Christ to serve in the Body of Christ in a particular capacity in a particular context. The people that I serve with are my church family, my brothers and sisters – adopted together into the family of Jesus. I am loyal to them even when they are not loyal to me. My prayer is that we learn to reciprocate such commitment faithfully in the Love of Jesus Christ and throughout the world.
Let’s frame this in another way. If one of my relatives calls me up and says: “I really need your help”. I am not going to say, “Sorry, I’ve already worked 40 hours this week”. No, or course not. I am going to help them even if it isn’t comfortable.
To be sure, as Landon’s post points out, Jesus does call us to Abundant Life – but nobody ever said that Abundant Life equals Happiness if Happiness equals what I personally want. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that our lives get to be stress free. Sometime our pleasure, contentment and joy are derived by “sucking it up” and doing the things that we don’t want to. Sometimes that may take a season of long weeks. Sometimes that may mean a season of several weeks off.
Landon states that he “may have a different set of reasoning” than Pam the Webivore’s (of his attached video) expletive driven presentation but that we “can’t deny that she’s right”. Heck we can’t.
The video goes on to state that: “The more you work the less you’re making for your time”. My worth is certainly not determined by an hourly rate – it is determined by my relationship with Jesus Christ. If Jesus says: Leave everything and follow me – then I better prioritize accordingly. The video in question is a classic example of how the business world does not always equate/translate directly into the church. In my opinion we should stop assuming that it does. In so doing we mislead our flocks.
The fact is that Pastors (in the PCUSA) are salaried employees who work on an annual basis and are not paid an hourly rate. Salaried employees are typically considered to be exempt from overtime pay. That is, they work to fulfill the duties of the job.
This means that the statement “If you are good at your job, you should get it done in the time allotted” –doesn’t really make sense in ministry. Our “goodness” as pastors has little to do with us in and of ourselves. If that were the case then we’d all be colossal failures. Our success comes in our ability to humbly follow the Lord as Christ commands in God’s timing.
That being said we are commanded to take the Sabbath (but Jesus also tells us that we don’t have to strictly follow this if we are helping people). As PCUSA pastors we are granted multiple weeks of vacation and study leave to take in order to be renewed. The Bible talks about our spouses and children and how we are to treat our neighbors, friends and enemies. Maybe if we did THAT stuff we might become comfortable living in the Spirit Driven, ordered chaos of ministry.
Maybe I am wrong but, as part of a denomination that is quickly declining in numbers and becoming more and more irrelevant in the world, maybe we need to get back to Biblical basics? Maybe we need a fervent commitment that exudes Jesus’ Love for every one of us? Maybe we need to be more intent on hearing God speak and letting the Spirit move us?
For me personally there seems to be ebb and flow to ministry as God pushes and pulls according to His will. When we seek to control ourselves for our own purposes we struggle but when we begin to see how God is working in and through our lives – we flourish. When we work for God’s purposes, no matter what the time commitment is, we are invigorated, inspired and renewed. The fact is, no matter how much we may hope it will – even a forty-hour work week won’t save us or better our ministries… because only Jesus can.