There are two types of sleep: BC and AD. Before Children and After Death. God does not take naps, but you might need one. Far too many pastors do not get a proper cycle of rest. In the fourth commandment, God set up a pattern of work and rest. This pattern goes back to the creation account in which God rested on the seventh day.
Notice the connection between rest and salvation in Psalm 62: “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” True rest is found only in God’s salvation. In the Old Testament, we have the promise of rest from God. In the New Testament, we learn how to enter this rest—only through Jesus. You cannot properly point people to eternal rest in Christ if you are not rested spiritually and physically.
Generally, Americans are restless. In the 1940s, the average American got right at eight hours of sleep per night. Today, the average is under seven hours. We are burnt out, worn out, tired, sleepy, and cooked. Our first two movements in the morning are to stop the alarm clock and look at the cell phone.
Everyone needs rest. Taking a sabbath is important. Taking a vacation is important.
Pastors should model proper behavior. Part of leadership is showing the way. It is hypocritical to teach about spiritual health if you’re not accounting for your own physical health. A fat slob of a preacher will never effectively communicate spiritual disciplines. A workaholic pastor cannot possibly communicate moderation honestly.
Pastors are not the heroes of their churches. You need this reminder. Your church needs this reminder. If you lead well, then you will equip enough people to serve while you take a quick breather. Entire ministries are built around the charisma of a talented leader. Clearly, this model is wrong and completely unsustainable. However, it’s just as wrong to believe your church cannot possibly operate for a Sunday or two in your absence. Both models—the charismatic hero and the worker bee hero—are misguided.
Your family needs more of your time. Rare is the pastor who is dedicating too much time to family. Most pastors have created idols of their churches at the expense of their families. Idol worship is always destructive and never beneficial. Take a vacation and kill your idols.
Creativity needs to be recharged. Like a battery, creative energy often needs a recharge. You can operate on low power for quite some time. You can lead through weariness, but creativity almost always suffers. Take a vacation and come back a more energized and creative leader.
God created fun. Neglecting fun is neglecting a part of God. Go and have fun with your family. We don’t need any more curmudgeon pastors.
Physical rest is good for the soul. There are those who believe the answer to their unrest is simply working harder, doing more, and justifying themselves. The harder you work to find rest apart from God, the more restless you become. True rest comes when you trust in Christ’s work, not your own. That’s the point of the atonement—Christ’s work on our behalf. If you’re not resting regularly, then you’re relying on your own efforts, not those of Jesus.
This article originally appeared here.