By Ross Engel –
Today, I’m on vacation. Technically, it’s the third day of my vacation, but who’s counting? One of the cardinal rules of a vacation is that you take your watch off and slow down the frantic pace of life. Instead of using the smartphone for emails and work, the phone is switched to airplane mode to become a camera and only a camera! It is glorious to be able to do that! I will admit that I do check my emails in the morning and the evening just to make sure I don’t miss anything major. It is really important to take time off from work. It keeps a person refreshed, and it’s extremely important to enjoy time with family without the constant fervor of work. I typically come back from some time away with my family with a less distracted work ethic and a more cheerful demeanor.
Pastors (and I’m certain many other vocations/professions as well) don’t always like to take time off from work to go away or to spend time away from the church study. Well, let me rephrase that. We love to take the time off to go away, but there are some significant challenges when doing so. If away for a Sunday, a guest preacher is needed (and it is wise to vet the preacher ahead of time). If away for a week, it’s wise to have a backup pastor to cover any hospital visits or emergency situations. The secretary needs to know what constitutes an emergency, and the elders need to know how to reach you if absolutely necessary. Early on in my own ministry, I was fearful about going away for any given time because I never knew what sorts of “fires” I might come back to (I learned the hard way the truthfulness of the phrase, “While the cat is away, the mice will play.”).
But these fears pale in comparison to the fear of going away and having folks think that “pastor is never here” or that “pastor is slacking off.” Even though churches are typically quite generous about giving time off to their pastors, the whispers do indeed come when it is announced that the pastor will be away for a family vacation.
Those whispers are more than enough scrutiny to cause a pastor to pause and reconsider taking time off for vacation.
Pastors don’t always help themselves either. I’ve heard more than a few pastors comment that “Satan doesn’t take a day off, so neither will [they].” Perhaps we need a different example to follow. God rested on the Seventh Day, and even our Lord Jesus went off by Himself to pray. He spent significant amounts of time on a boat with His disciples. I can just picture Jesus and the twelve disciples enjoying a laugh and some down time as they fished and enjoyed conversations with each other on the open water.
Since I am on vacation, I’m not going to write with much theological depth this week. Rather, I’m going to take this opportunity to offer words of encouragement to my brothers in the ministry. And yes, the irony of writing a blog post while on vacation is not lost on me.
Ignore the whispers. Use the vacation time that has been given to you. Get away for a bit, even if you’re not going far. Turn off the cell phone. Enjoy your family. Take in some new sights. Do something fun. Do something healthy. Eat some things that aren’t healthy, and then take a walk with your wife after dinner to combat what you just ate. Take your wife on a date, a real date. Get up early, or turn off the alarm and sleep in for a bit. Do something out of the ordinary. The church is going to survive for a week or so without you. Yes, it really, truly will! The Word of the Lord will endure despite your absence from the church office. Your time away will not cost someone their salvation. Enjoy a cold BEvERage with your wife. Enjoy a few more with your in-laws (I’m vacationing with mine this week, so it is doable. Believe me!) Take some time to be refreshed and recharge. Make some beautiful memories, and enjoy the First Article gifts of this wonderful world.
There will always be more than enough work for pastors to do. This is most certainly true, but let us never forget that even Jesus paused to fish!
As for me, I’m going to call this article “good enough” for vacation. I’ve got a lively Euchre game calling my name and the ice clinking around in my glass tells me it’s time to stretch my legs.