Recently, I heard a message from Pastor Dan Lian of NewSpring Church where he said, "God blesses a good rest ethic." (Note: if you want to see the entire message, you can view it here). Pastor Dan was referring to Genesis 2 where God rested after creating the heavens and the earth. As he said, we tend to have a strong work ethic in America but not necessarily a strong rest ethic.
Pastor if you're going to last in ministry then you must rest. You are not going to sustain the pace of ministry if you are not regularly resting. Jesus had the most effective ministry in history and He had the habit of rest (Mark 6:31). Jesus knew that He could not minister without it.
The question is: how? How can we rest when the demands of ministry are constantly pressing on us. I'd like to suggest three ways to rest.
Very little happens in my life unless I put it on the calendar. Anytime I schedule a coffee or lunch meeting the first thing I do is enter the date and time on the calendar. By doing that I am assuring that not only will I not forget it but that I will do it. To rest, you can simply put the word "rest" in a time slot that will work for you. Regularly schedule time in your calendar when you are doing nothing but resting. I'm not necessarily talking about taking a nap (although there is nothing wrong with that). Instead I mean finding time to get your mind off ministry and relax. Also, you need to plan days and weeks off where you are doing nothing but resting.
This time must be guarded at all costs. Let your spouse and assistant know where and when you will be resting and then turn off your phone. You have to protect your time if you are going to rest. You must have time to get your mind off ministry throughout the year if you are going to last in ministry. The pace of ministry is not sustainable without rest.
I remember a season in my ministry when I almost burned out. I was an associate pastor at a church and we were moving into a new building. I was regularly putting in 60-80 hour work weeks for several weeks and I kept telling myself that I would rest when we got moved in. But as soon as we moved in, the church grew in attendance and there was no time to rest because there was too much ministry to do. Pastor you will always find a reason not to rest because the ministry never ends. That is why you need to protect it.
Finally, you have to fight for rest. Soon after Jesus encouraged His disciples to rest in Mark 6:31, the feeding of the five thousand occurred. My point? Ministry will always be there so you have to fight for rest. In addition the devil knows that you need rest and he will find ways to distract you when you are at your weakest. Don't let him win. Keep your times of rest no matter what.
Pastor, you matter. Your ministry matters but you matter more. You have to take care of you and one of the best ways to do that is rest. Pull out your calendar right now and schedule some time for rest this week.