This should be a no-brainer, but apparently, it’s not.
I wrote an article for this website called “Things the Lazy Pastor Doesn’t Know–But is About to Find Out,” and was surprised at the reactions.
Several pastors responded that they’re not really lazy but stressed or pressured or unwell, and so the quality of their work has been suffering lately.
I understand, guys, believe me. Been there, done that. Forty-two years of pastoring six churches, three years on the staff of another, and then five years as the director of missions working with over one hundred churches and their pastors. I know about pastors being under stress, dealing with pressure, and being too sick to perform their duties.
That’s not lazy, my brother. Not even close.
So, at the risk of offending another group of sincerely struggling pastors–the last thing I want to do, believe me–let me try another approach.
Let’s look at it this way: Ten Ways a Pastor Can Know He’s Just Plain Lazy. How’s that? (On Facebook, this would merit a smiley-face.)
1. Procrastination. You cannot bring yourself to do the unpleasant tasks, but keep putting off the hard things.
I’ve read that one of the greatest traits of successful people in the business world is that they tackle the hardest, most unpleasant tasks of the day first. That would take a dedication, a commitment, a focus, which many of us lack.
2. Impatience. You will not do any ministry that is not easy or does not have an immediate payoff.
If that family down the street says they want to join my church, okay, I’ll go see them. However, if they do not go to church and show no signs of ever wanting to, and a friend suggests we call on them, the lazy pastor will beg off. This is not his calling.
3. Drudge. You see most of ministry as a job.
At this point, the layman will ask, “Well, why would a man go into the ministry if he doesn’t like the work expected of a pastor?” Good question. I’ve wondered that myself.
The slothful shepherd gets no joy from hospital visitation, crisis ministry, office administration, staff meetings, or sermon preparation. If he does them at all, his heart isn’t in it and that is apparent to all. He will rush into the hospital room, barely make eye contact, utter a few cliches, offer a prayer, and be on his way, mopping his brow, no doubt, and relieved to have done it.
Actually, many parts of the pastor’s job are difficult to most pastors, and they have to train and discipline themselves to do them. I never enjoyed counseling, and yet after enduring a year of marital counsel with my wife, and after coming through a difficult job-ending time with one church, I was finally qualified to counsel people with problems. It’s still draining–physically and emotionally–but it’s what a shepherd does.
4. Immaturity. You are glad to find any excuse to get out of doing your ministry.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I will not be able to do that funeral. I have something else on my calendar.”
Some funerals a pastor can get out of. The deceased was not a member of his congregation, or the beloved former pastor is able to drive back to town for the services. But in most cases, the pastor should do the funeral of all church members. Even if the former pastor assists, or another pastor participates, a man of God will want to be there ministering to his people.
This is not to say the minister should skip his child’s ball games for every church committee meeting. But he will make sure to cover the essential aspects of his ministry. If he has additional ministers on his staff, he should not try to do everything himself, but share the load.
5. Shallowness. You do not want to study for your sermons. You’d rather find a good sermon in print or on-line and preach it.
Preaching someone else’s sermon is never a good idea. However, the Lord may speak to you through someone else’s sermon and that could even furnish a great idea or even the bulk of your own message. But you must get the message itself through your own prayer and study, not from a book or website. See Jeremiah 23:30ff.
6. Addictions. You cannot pull yourself away from the television or the computer or your hobbies to do the work expected of a pastor.
No one minds the pastor playing golf so long as he is faithfully doing the work God called him to and for which they “hired” him.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. Someone will always “mind” you spending an afternoon on the links or an early-morning hour at the gym. But if you know you are on top of your work, and if your leadership team is supportive, ignore them and do what you need to do to take care of your health and your sanity.
But, beware of excessive relaxation.
7. Guilt. You feel guilty a lot. That’s a good sign, incidentally, if you are not doing your job for no good reason.
One evidence we are children of God, according to Hebrews 12:6, is that the Lord chastens whom He loves. So, if we are rebellious or neglectful and are saved, the Holy Spirit is going to make us know it. That oppressive weight we feel in our hearts and spirits? That’s the Lord calling us to the fields.
8. Majoring on minors. You omit doing the more important ministries in order to stay with some tiny aspect of the work which you find more interesting.
I once knew a pastor who told the church he would never be present on Wednesday night for prayer meetings because he coached a Little League team that played on those nights. He did not last long at that church.
9. Advisors. Ask your wife or a great friend in the congregation (or on your staff) whether or not you are lazy. If they hesitate and search for the right words to respond to you, there is your answer.
As with so many other such issues in life, the short answer is: ask your wife. She knows.
10. Barrenness. The lazy pastor will not be sowing seed, cultivating the growth of his people, or reaping a harvest in the lives of the congregation. He wonders where the fruit is which the Lord promised.
I went by the field of a slacker and by the vineyard of a man lacking sense. Thistles had come up everywhere, weeds covered the ground, and the stone wall was ruined.
I saw, and took it to heart; I looked and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest, and your poverty will come like a robber, your need, like a bandit. (Proverbs 24:30-34).
Laziness is a spiritual problem.
Laziness may have its roots in a hundred other things, but underneath it all, there is rebellion against God.
As with all rebellion, the answer is repentance and commitment.