Go Get Alone
By David Norman
In his book Confessions of a Pastor, Craig Groeschel candidly writes that while standing on the platform one Sunday and leading a prayer before speaking, he realized it was the first time he had prayed all week. Consequently, that moment sparked a change in him that moved him from a full-time pastor and part-time Christ follower to one wholly devoted to Christ.
As I read the story, I struggled with all the times I’ve stood to speak without complete confidence of the backing of the Holy Spirit. I confess that too often I’ve interpreted the text well (exegetically speaking), but I have completely neglected the pursuit of God on my own time in my own life. I’ve been the proverbial pastor who never opens his Bible unless he’s preparing a message.
How did it come to this? How did I, the dude who once had such good intentions, become THAT guy. How did I become someone who only relates to God on an information basis in order to move that information to someone else, but yet expect that person to take action and incorporate it into his or her life? Reading of Groeschel’s struggles and confession has led to one of my own.
I have become so busy as a pastor, doing the good work of ministry, that I have neglected the most important aspect —my relationship to God, my lifeline! Eugene Petersen once wrote, “The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears as adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker” (from The Contemplative Pastor).
It’s not that we shouldn’t be eager to accomplish the will and work of God, the issue is that we often get so caught up in the moment, in the to-do list, that we neglect the One who called us in the first place. So how do we avoid getting to this place? How do we avoid becoming “that guy.” I want to make just a few suggestions.
Get Alone With God
I recently realized that I need a structured reading plan to help prevent me from looking for sermons each week. I chose to read through the Bible in a year on a book-by-book basis, but there are numerous options as how to do it. Instead of waiting until arriving at the office, getting distracted, and working on a message or answering emails, I now begin each morning at my kitchen table with my One Year Bible.
Get Alone With The Creator
I have found great power in getting alone with God in creation. I live in a coastal city, so I go to a remote spot on the beach and just spend time in God’s presence. I used to live in a wooded area and would do the same in the middle of a forest. That could be desert, a park, or any other place that you have found suitable for you to meet and encounter God regularly.
Get Alone With Your Family
If you’re not married, then your small group or community group is your family (or, if you’re living at home, your family is your family). But for those of us blessed with a wife (or husband) and children, it means turning off your communication tools (mobile phone, PDA, laptop, Blackberry) and spending alone time with them. Your day off is not an option! Your primary role as shepherd is to your family. Do not make the mistake of placing your family on the altar of ministry and sacrificing them in the same of serving God.
Get Alone With A Mentor
The number one way in which we can guarantee making the same mistakes as those before us is to refuse to learn from their mistakes. The two best ways to prevent this from happening is to study history and meet with a mentor. Go to your mentor with a list of questions and allow that person to help shape and mold you as a person, an adult, and as a minister. (A great source for finding a mentor is the PDYM State Mentors found at www.PDYMCommunity.com.)
If you find yourself incapable of meeting with a mentor, allow me to suggest one alternative, but only on a temporary basis. Find a good book by a pastor or minister that you respect. Learn from that.
Get Alone With A Running Partner
Find someone else in ministry (preferably someone outside of your church) to live life alongside. Student pastors are often times some of the loneliest people I’ve ever met. We have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of people who look up to us, but often there isn’t anyone to encourage us, to share our burdens with, to pray with, cry with, etc. Maybe your area has a network of student pastors. Maybe you could be instrumental in creating one. Another option is to get in on the conversation at www.pdymblog.com. But find at least one other person with whom you can be honest, open, and vulnerable.
This certainly is not an exhaustive list, there are many other things you can do to prevent your faith from only existing onstage. But these are some of the things that I have found extremely helpful. As I write this article, I pray for each of your ministries. I pray that you would find the imbalance in your own life, and ensure that you are a Christ-follower who happens to be a student pastor.
Now go get alone . . .
This article “Go Get Alone” written by David Norman is excerpted from Simply Youth Ministry Newsletter at http://www.simplyyouthministry.com from July 2007.