Self Discipline

It is an unseasonably cool and rainy day in the Ozarks, the kind of day that you just want to stay in bed. It has been a struggle getting any work done today. Nevertheless, I have pushed through it... Got Levi dressed and to my parents'. Put in 30 minutes on the treadmill. Replied to emails from church members. Made a couple phone calls. Went to Springfield and ran some errands for the church. Stopped by an elderly couple's home for a visit. Here in a bit, I will go to my office and take care of some "office work." And then I will go back to church around 6:00 to get ready for our Wednesday night services. Not a killer day by any means, but productive enough.

One of the challenges of being a full-time pastor is that it requires a great deal of personal disicipline. No one is looking over your shoulder on a daily basis to see how much work you're actually doing. Ask yourself... "What time would I get up if no one knew when I began work for the day? How many hours would I work per week if no one was keeping track?" You might do well at first, but would you continue being disciplined as the years went by? I'm willing to bet that very few people would succeed long-term under this system (which is essentially the honor system). And indeed, there are many pastors who become quite lazy.

Now I suppose it's true enough that if a pastor is lazy, the people will eventually catch on. His absence will be noted in the hospitals and in members' homes, and his sermon quality will be poor. In this way, there is some accountability. In fact, Sundays are the ultimate accountability. Whether you're ready or not, they're coming. Sundays are relentless. And each week God's people show up, looking to you to be fed and challenged. This helps keep you going on those days (like today) when you feel like staying in bed!

Of course this post is only meant as an observation, and not a complaint. While being a pastor does require a great deal of self-discipline, the flexibility of a pastor's work schedule can also be a great blessing, particularly to his family. Some guys do well with it. Some guys don't. I have often thought that many churches "on the bubble" of being able to support a full-time pastor would be much better off to generously support a bivocational pastor, than to practically starve a full-time pastor. A good bivocational pastor will outwork a mediocre full-time pastor any day, even with his limited time.