Guest Editorial

Focus, pastor!

Ivan L. Williams Sr., DMin, is the director of the North American Division Ministerial Association.

Looking out of my home office window, I often see red-tailed hawks swooping down from the huge 300-hundred-foot-tall electrical towers to the field below. I watch them catch rodents or snakes for a meal. They look down intensely while perching or flying. They peer down eagerly for movement of any kind. They swoop down purposefully for a successful mission.

Such an operation requires keen eyesight and unblurred vision. If the hawk cannot hunt, it won’t eat. If the hawk loses its focus, it will die. A raptor’s focus is a matter of life and death—and so is ours. If any profession requires unflinching focus, it is pastoral ministry. Richard Krejcir, from the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, states, “We [pastors] are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, or politicians.”1

Focus is the ability to view goals or purposes with a single eye. Ministry is full of disruptions, distractions, and detours that cause us to lose our focus. Amid so many choices and voices, the loss of leadership focus can be perilous for pastors and members. It can be detrimental to spiritual momentum for congregations to wander aimlessly on a journey without a focused goal or a focused leader.

Elijah teaches us that pastors can lose their focus. When fatigue, isolation, and fear are compounded by the pandemic, ministry can lose its focus. Our struggles are the same. It was Jezebel yesterday; it is Babylon today. Jezebel was powerful in her day, but she would fall; so would Babylon. “Babylon the Great has fallen! . . . Come out of her, My people” (Rev. 18:2, 4, HCSB). Theologians affirm, “It seems fairly obvious that the text invites the readers to consider ‘Jezebel’ in connection with ‘Babylon’ in the Apocalypse.”2

While Babylon embodies false teachings and worldly practices that can cause us to avert our gaze and abandon our mission, God’s shepherds are called to remain focused on delivering God’s eternal gospel.3 Here are some suggestions for staying focused:

1. Pray for God’s intervention

“And he [Elijah] prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough’ ” (1 Kings 19:4, NKJV). Be honest with God. Prayer is the key component for staying focused. Much prayer can awaken our God-given sense of urgency for His biddings and keep us in tune with God’s will and purpose. No loss of focus can last against the continual onslaught of prayer.

2. Develop a clear plan of action

“Suddenly, a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ ” (1 Kings 19:13, NKJV). A pastor’s focus can be blurred without the investment of preparation and planning for the task at hand. The great yield of accomplishment is only realized when the deposit of time and effort are spent in the planning stage.

3. Remove the clutter and distractions

“ ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of Hosts’ ” (1 Kings 19:14, NKJV). Focus is lost when the busyness of life drowns out the passion for servant leadership. To remain focused in this unfocused world, pastors should learn the value of setting boundaries and removing the clutter that causes distractions. It may mean getting up earlier or turning off the phone, but whatever it takes, protect your focus.

Be encouraged—you can stay focused in a blurry, unfocused world. When it comes to the tasks of ministry, our vision can be renewed. Unlike the hawk, a pastor’s focus, if lost, can be restored.

  1. Richard J. Krejcir, “What Is Going on With the Pastors in America?” Schaeffer Institute, 2007, http://intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562&columnid=3958.
  2. Peter Leithart, “Jezebel and Babylon,” Theopolis, November 11, 2016, https://theopolisinstitute.com/leithart_post/jezebel-and-babylon/.
  3. See Glenn Townend, “Three Angels’ Messages,” Adventist Record, February 13, 2020.

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