The Resting Pastor: Part I

 The Pastor and the Sabbath

We don’t forget that we are Christians.  We forget that we are human, and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future.”[1]

(1) The Great Need for Sabbath Among Shepherd

Southern Baptist Pastors[2]

  • 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
  • 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
  • 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

Anglican Clergy

  • A recent study of Anglican clergy revealed that 58% feel drained by their ministry role.
  • In addition, 61% indicated that fatigue and irritation are a part of their daily experience in ministry.[2]

Presbyterian Clergy

  • In a recent survey among over 700 Presbyterian clergy, only 53% belong to a peer support group.
  • In addition only 26% have a mentor they can go to for counsel.
  • The study found that those who had meaningful relationship with a mentor, experienced higher levels of satisfaction and less stress.[3]
  • Of those surveyed, 19% have taken a sabbatical while in the ministry and 87% have taken a study leave within the last five years.
  • Higher levels of satisfaction in ministry were associated with having taken study leave within the last five years. Failure to take these kinds of Sabbath leaves has proven to cause burnout.[4]

(2) The Great Need for Sabbath Among the General Public (Your Church Members)

USA Today Poll of 1,220 Adults Revealed[1]

  • 67% need a long vacation.
  • 66% say they feel stressed.
  • 60% feel their time is crunched
  • 51% say they want less work and more play.
  • 48% feel generally overwhelmed.

(3) Definitions of Rest.

“…Sabbath is not merely the cessation of work; it is turning from work to something utterly different from what we normally call rest.” Dan B. Allender, Rest. 

Biblical Definitions of Rest 

Old Testament Origins

  • From the time of creation, the seventh day was a special day set aside by God for rest (Gen. 2:2); it was a time to celebrate, to rejoice in work accomplished, and to praise the Creator.
  • Today, most Christians and Jews observe every seventh day as special, whether they recognize Saturday or Sunday. The Hebrew word shabbat, “Sabbath,” is formed from the root shabat, meaning “to cease,” “to desist,” or “to rest.”[7

Inter-testamental Period

  • The Sabbath became the heart of the law, and the prohibitions were expanded. Thirty-nine tasks were banned, such as tying or untying a knot. These in turn were extended until ingenious evasions were devised that lost the spirit but satisfied the legal requirement.[8]

New Testament Affirmation and Transformation

  • In the New Testament, Jesus and His disciples observed the Sabbath (Mark 1:21)—but Jesus declared it to be a day created by God for man’s good, not man’s oppression. He healed on the Sabbath and even declared Himself Lord over the Sabbath (Mark 2:23–28). He asserted that it is permissible to do good on the Sabbath, even if this involves “work” as the Pharisees defined it (Mark 3:4)[9]
  • The book of Acts preserves nine occurrences of the word Sabbath. The text mentions the Sabbath as a day for religious gathering/teaching and associates it with the formation of churches in Antioch (Acts 13:13–52); Philippi (Acts 16:11–15); Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9); and Corinth (Acts 18:1–4).[10]
  • For believers today, this is a day of special focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, recognizing and praising God in the church. The true “Sabbath” of God, true rest in and with Him through Christ, is the goal and purpose of every believer. With joy, we strive to enter that rest (Heb. 3:10, 11; Rev. 14:13).[11]

Christian Psychology Definitions of Rest

  • Rest be described as “a state of peace, contentment, serenity, refreshment, stillness, tranquility, or calm.”
  • The qualities are as follows:  A quietness of heart, a sober awareness of who we are and who God is, an ability to let go, an ability to enjoy leisure, nature, and things that do not involve performance, reflection, trust, an ability to live from our higher or true self—to determine our values and live by them; enjoying the moment—not living in the past or future, waiting without impatience…”[12]

(4) Conclusion and Suggested Application 

  • Embrace Sabbath/Rest Taking Practices as from God.
  • Consider the role you play as an example to your family and church as a Rest-taking pastor.
  • Eliminate Hurry from your life as much as possible so you can serve the Lord from Rest.  Consider these statements on the danger of “hurry”.
    • “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry can destroy our souls.  Hurry can keep us from living well.”[13] John Ortberg
    • “Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.” Carl Jung
    • “The enemy of our souls knows full well how hurry sickness or unrest can ultimately destroy us. He will do his best to keep us from God’s rest.  He entices us to drive ourselves onward, create ever more activity, fill our emptiness with external stimuli to avoid the disquiet in our soul.”[14] Siang-Yang Tan



[1] Wayne Cordeiro, Leading on Empty, 13.


[3] Kelvin Randall “Clergy Burnout: Two Different Measures,” Pastoral Psychology 62 (2013): 333–341.

[4] Leslie J. Francis “Assessing the Effectiveness of Support Strategies in Reducing professional burnout Among Clergy Serving in the Presbyterian Church (USA)” Practical Theology Journal, Vol. 6. Issue 3, (2013), 319-331.

[5] Ibid., 328

[6] Lori Joseph and Bob Laird, “Americans Working Too Hard” USA Today Snapshots, Jan. 2001.

[7] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 157). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[8] Bruce, B. J. (2003). Sabbath. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1426). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[9] Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000).

[10] Babcock, B. C. (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Sabbath. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[11 Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000).

[12] Siang-Yang Tan, Rest: Experiencing God’s Peace in a Restless World, 22.

[13] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 82.

[14] Siang-Yang Tan, 25.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s