How much “alone” time does a pastor need?
For the tasks associated with the ministry, there is a time that must be sought for study and prayer. Quiet and solitude are extremely helpful. You do have to prepare for things in the future. Sunday is coming, and you must be prepared to handle God’s Word effectively.
But can you distance yourself from others for the sake of future ministry?
“Aren’t you aware that Jesus would distance himself from the crowds? He would take time off from people so he could minister better.”
When Jesus Needed Some Alone Time
Well, bringing Jesus into this conversation is most definitely welcomed. Jesus did take time to reflect and recharge from time to time.
What was tragically neglected from those responses was the lack of success Jesus was enjoyed at creating that ministerial space.
Look what happened in Matthew 14:
Matthew 14:10 He [Herod] sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”
Jesus had just learned that his forerunner and his cousin, John the Baptist, had just been executed. Mourning his loss, Jesus sought solitude. Just like many of us, Jesus was suffering (Heb. 2:18) with a loss and desired to be alone. He was probably attempting to get a chance to pray to his Father alone as was his custom (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Luke 22:39).
Seeking this solitude, he was interrupted by those who needed him. What is remarkable about Jesus is not only what he did but what he didn’t do.
Jesus never dismissed the needs of others in order to care for his own needs.
He had compassion for them. They were sick. They needed help. And he helped them all day until sunset. Even when the disciples urged him to send the people away, Jesus pointed to their need and told the disciples not to hand it off to another but to handle it themselves.
Jesus never used an entourage, a barrier, or an excuse to protect him from the people he came to save.
This wasn’t the only occasion this happened.
- Jesus left the disciples to pray one morning and they found him anyway (Mark 1:35-36).
- Jesus couldn’t enter anywhere quietly due to people seeking him from all over (Mark 1:45).
- Even when Jesus would withdraw, people would bring their sick to him (Luke 5:15-17).
- Jesus withdrew to the beach and the crowd followed him (Mark 2:13).
- The disciples followed Jesus when he would walk through a field (Mark 2:23).
- Jesus couldn’t get a quiet moment by the lake (Mark 6:31).
- And it goes on and on and on…
I do see that Jesus taught the importance of occasional solitude, but I also see how the needs of others always trumped his own.
Jesus did seek isolation at times, but he never let that get in the way of ministry.
The Secret of Ministry
Instead of rushing people off so I can get to my agenda, maybe they are my agenda.
Ministry involves people. Shepherding means being around sheep. You can’t be a shepherd if you don’t smell like sheep. I’ve always said the ministry would be so easy if people weren’t involved.
I say that jokingly, but I am learning to embrace that people are the ministry. And if that means I stay out of green rooms, keep my office door open, or stay active in people’s lives, I am praying I can do that.
In an attempt to do ministry, may I never avoid the people to whom God is calling me to minister.
Jesus never ignored Monday’s need to prepare Sunday’s sermon.
Yes, I need to prepare for Sunday but not at the exclusion of this day. Don’t focus on future ministry so much that you miss the opportunities currently in front of you.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.