The Pastor’s Toolbox: Personal Devotion

Personal Devotional Life: Pastoral Duties Must Not Crowd It Out

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

“After entering the ministry, I found it difficult to cultivate a personal devotional life. That may surprise you, but the problem was manifold. Among the reason were late-nigh meetings and counseling times, early-morning staff and committee meetings, and the constant demand to prepare notes, lessons, sermons, and the like. In addition, there were so many needs in the congregation about which I need to pray that they took up most of my own prayer time. In fact, part of the blessings I looked forward to in retirement was the regular and extended opportunity to feed my own soul.

It came as a surprise to me that one of the problems I faced in the ministry was that when I opened the Scriptures I found it extremely difficult to forget the need to determine the background, outline the passage, divide it into an appropriate package for delivery, and think of ways to get this particular truth across to others. It became very difficult for me to just sit down with the Scriptures and let them speak to me, alone. Also my prayers, which certainly were needed for my own personal needs, would often drift into the pressing needs of our church body.

That makes it tough on one’s personal devotional times. Perhaps some can discipline their minds better, but I found it difficult. I don’t really think I was trying to escape my own responsibilities. Rather, after being in the ministry for a period of time, we know about so many hurting people in the congregation, so many people who need to change their actions, attitudes, or thinking, and so many who need to be involved in specific service opportunities that they often take first priority in our minds. With the Scriptures in hand, we see many verses that address their particular situation, and thus our own personal devotional time becomes intercessory work. Each pastor will have a different circumstance, and so how each one solves this dilemma will be different. But it does deserve constant attention.

It would be a great tragedy to see our members growing in service and godliness, while our own souls are starving for personal fellowship with our Lord!”

Do you have a plan to protect your personal devotional time? If so, for the edification of others, please share what this looks like.

Source:  “Practical Wisdom For Pastors” by Curtis C. Thomas.

Gary Chaffins, is co-pastor at The Grace Community Church at Bigelow in Portsmouth, Ohio. He has a beautiful wife, two rotten kids, a big-white dog, and carries a large NASB.

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