The Sabbath: A time for exhaustion?

No time clock can measure what ministers invest throughout their lives.

Willie E. Hucks II is the associate editor of Ministry.

I spend much of my time evaluating manuscripts and determining their suitability for publication. Some of them strike me with their theological depth and clarity, others for their practicality, yet others for their poignancy and emotional impact. The manuscript from Erik C. Carter, “From Workday to Rest Day: One Pastor’s Journey to Sabbath Renewal,” reminded me of my many years spent as a district pastor. The years were wonderful; they were also exhausting.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, imply that my time spent in congregational ministry constituted a series of negative experiences. I use exhausting in its Latin sense of something that is drained or emptied out. In other words, I was consumed by the joy of ministering to my churches, emptying myself for their benefit. I thoroughly loved it.

Busy Sabbath days

Whether in my three-church district in the 1980s or my two-church district in the 1990s, my Sabbaths were bustling with activities—even on the Sabbaths I was not preaching. There were the impromptu counseling sessions (“Pastor, do you have a minute? I need to talk.”), afternoon programs, and evening activities. No, I obviously couldn’t attend every event; and no, many of these occasions were not stressful. But the demands on my time clearly existed. In this sense, I utilize the word exhaustion in the title of this editorial. For often that which is urgent becomes necessary on Sabbath afternoons; and although the pastor has preached, baptized, conducted a Communion service, conducted a baby dedication, taught a Sabbath School class, or completed any combination of the above, the need often comes for the minister to expend just a bit more on behalf of a member or visitor.

Carter, in his article, speaks to pastors and other ministers who often feel that the Sabbath is a day of rest for everyone except them. What pastor hasn’t, at some point in time, looked forward to the close of the Sabbath and the respite the latter part of the weekend brings (unless the church board meets Sunday morning)? Read for yourselves the lessons Carter learned and ask yourselves if you need to take those same steps toward Sabbath renewal.

Busy ministers, busy ministries

While not intended, one might perceive that the theme of exhaustion runs though this month’s issue. If so, the word carries with it the definition of emptying oneself in fulfilling the gospel commission. And not just on the Sabbath. Ministry is an all-consuming calling that taxes the individual seven days a week. No time clock can measure what ministers invest throughout their lives. The article by historian Douglas Morgan on the ministries of Lewis C. Sheafe and Matthew C. Strachan reveals how these two men spent their lives—exhausting themselves—in fulfilling the gospel commission, changing both the Adventist Church and society at large. Skip Bell interviews a young pastor who, like so many other pastors worldwide, expends time and energy making a difference in the communities where he lives and in the lives of those he serves.

Maylan Schurch provides practical counsel regarding the nominating committee process—a task viewed as laborious and exhausting (in the negative sense of the word). He shares wisdom that simplifies the process and removes the hesitancy that many experience when asked to serve on the nominating committee. Of course, the work of that committee results in the selection of individuals who volunteer to exhaust themselves (positive sense of the word) in service to both God and His church. Finally, when the work of the minister officially ends with retirement, after decades of draining himself or herself for the benefit of others, often the retiree transitions to a new phase of ministry. Larry Yeagley shares how one can prepare for those years to come and his personal testimony of what the retired life is like for him.

So, whether we are just starting the ministerial journey, soon to end that journey, or still in the middle of that journey—as I am—let us commit ourselves to a life of joyful exhaustion, “ ‘just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ ” (Matt. 20:28, NIV).

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Willie E. Hucks II is the associate editor of Ministry.

April 2011

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More Articles In This Issue

From workday to rest day: One pastor’s journey to Sabbath renewal

How do Adventist pastors practice and experience the Sabbath?

Proclaiming the gospel and changing society

What two unsung pioneers of African American Adventism can teach us about changing the church and reaching the world.

Beyond abstinence: Presenting God’s ideal for sexual intimacy

The author offers suggestions on teaching youth and young adults a positive theology of sex.

Missional church: What it can do for church growth

Deep roots in Jesus will bring a greater impact for church growth.

The nominating committee: Streamlining the process

If tuned to maximize its pluses and reduce its minuses, the nominating committee can be satisfying—even fun.

Graceful retirement

What could “graceful retirement” look like?

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