Pastor, You’re Not Too Busy

Pastors often talk as if they are the busiest people in the world. This is not true. Even the secular world realizes what Eugene Peterson wrote to us pastors in his book The Contemplative Pastor: We shouldn’t strive to be busy because if you’re busy, (a) you’re not managing your time well and (b) you’re not focusing on what’s important. In Stephen Covey’s terms, you may be focusing on the urgent, but not on what’s truly important.

The only way our lives as pastors are different is that our task list is not as flexible. What I mean is this: when I was working a secular job and had a four-day work week, I usually had only four days worth of work to do that week. As a pastor, I have the same amount of work regardless of how many holidays or days off fall in that week. I still have to be prepared to speak twice on Sunday, make hospital visits, do the funeral that arises, and the host of other things that make up the week’s preparation for Sunday. Time management isn’t merely helpful; time management is essential.

But there are some things that you are never too busy to do. If you are to busy to do these things every day, you are too busy, or you are just lazy and not giving the full attention to your ministry and calling.

1. I can read my Bible every day.

Some of the members of our church put us to shame by working long days yet still finding time to read God’s Word. It’s supposed to be a part of who you are, not just what you do. Don’t let 1 Cor. 9:27 be true of you because you fail in the most basic Christian responsibilities. Lead in private as well as in public.

2. I can pray for the church as a whole and at least some of the people in the church every day.

I say “some of the people” because I understand that in larger congregations it may take a while to make it through the list. But you can pray collectively every day for the sheep given to your care. You can pray for some of the church concerns you have and for your ministry every day. If you can’t find time for that then you must not think it’s really important. Quit surfing the internet and you’ll have plenty of time.

3. I can read my text every day.

The text I am referring to is your preaching text for the coming Sunday. If you work ahead on your sermon preparation (and I hope you do), you might find time to read the following few weeks’ text every day, also. This way at least the words of Scripture that you will explain and apply will be on your heart and you can meditate on them throughout the day. If you work in the original languages, make some reading notes to stuff in your Greek New Testament and read the text in the Greek (or Hebrew) every day. It won’t take that long to do and I’m certain that it’s much more important than some of the other things you do every day.

4. I can go over my exegesis and study notes on that text every day.

Even if I photocopy them and take them with me to read over standing in line somewhere, or waiting to pick the kids up from school, at least I’ve gone over them and they’re percolating through me. In most evangelical traditions, preaching is still the number one thing on your job description, so I can’t believe you can’t take time every day to prepare mentally for it.

5. I can read something unrelated to my current study to broaden my heart and challenge me intellectually, spiritually, or both.

I’m not a huge John Piper fan but I highly recommend your reading John Piper’s essay, “Brothers, Fight for Your Life” in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. (You can find an excerpt of this essay here and another one, relating to language study, here and the pdf of it here.) His point is that it doesn’t take much time each day to read through a classic Christian work or even a modern book. A little time each day in a wisely-chosen book is of much more value than many of the stuff you do already each day. If you don’t have time during the day, turn the TV off in the evening and read then. You shouldn’t have to be on the clock to grow spiritually or intellectually. It will make you a better pastor and a better Christian.

Some final thoughts

To be blunt, I find it hard to believe that you can’t find an hour or two most days to accomplish this little to-do list. If you make these things a priority, you will find your life and ministry more fruitful, your walk with the Lord stronger, and you will live with integrity.

“How do I begin doing these things?” you might ask. The answer is simple: Just do it! Some things that you do, if you stopped doing them, no one would even notice. Stop doing those things and substitute these things.

If it helps, make a daily to-do list and check it off when you do it each day. If you want a sample, email me and I’ll send you one that I have made for myself (you can modify it to your heart’s content).

The day is swiftly approaching when you will have to give an accounting of your ministry. Work diligently every day to fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4:5) and you will find yourself further ahead than by working in fits and spurts. Work intentionally, not haphazardly and see what the Lord will do in your life and ministry and in your church.

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New Testament Theology Annotated Bibliography

Originally posted on

bultmannIn 1787, J. P. Gabler delivered his oration on the distinction between biblical and systematic theology. Since then, NT theology has developed into a wide field of its own. The following bibliography provides the major works of the field along with annotations on the methodology and importance of the works. If you would want to enter into the field of NT theology, you should probably start with Hasel and go from there. This list will be updated periodically. If you think of a work that is a major omission, please comment below and let us know!

For the rest of our Annotated Bibliographies, look under the Resources tab in the top menu.

History of New Testament Theology

Carson, D. A. “New Testament Theology.” Pages 796–811 in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Development. Edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1997.

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Music Monday – Sandra McCracken: Psalms

Originally posted on :

I’ve streamed this album multiple times a day, every day, since it became available on Relevant’s The Drop. Below is a video of a live performance of one of the songs; if you like it, you should stream the album at the link above. The album drops tomorrow, April 14.

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Acts 21 – Did (Christian) Paul Keep the Law?

Originally posted on Reading Acts:

paul66Based on Paul’s behavior in Acts, it may well be he would have told the Jews to continue keeping the Law.  He required Timothy be circumcised (16:3) and he had made a vow while in Corinth (18:18). When he is before the Sanhedrin, Paul claims he has continued to keep the law (23:1). This is curious considering the reputation Paul has for preaching a “Law-Free” gospel among the Gentiles. To what extent he kept the boundary markers of the Law these conservatives Jews would have expected from him.

Paul claims to have a “good conscience” in 23:1. The verb Luke uses refers to living as a good citizen (πολιτεύομαι) and is the same work Paul uses in Phil 1:27 for having a “manner of life” worthy of the Gospel. In the Maccabean literature the verb refers to living one’s life in accordance with Jewish traditions (2 Macc 6:1, 11:25; 3…

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I Think We Should Be Fair in Our Evaluations of 16th Century Theologians

Michael R. Jones:

I’ve been saying this for years (and not just about Calvin) but nobody listens to me.

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:

Frank Viola has a post titled Shocking Beliefs of John Calvin.

I object for the following reason:  I think it remarkably inappropriate to judge someone from the 16th century by 21st century standards.  The result is anachronism.  Better to judge Calvin (or anyone) by their own era rather than how we think they ought to have behaved.

For instance, Viola’s dislike of Calvin’s willingness to see Servetus executed may resonate with moderns, but in the 16th century that was simply the way things were seen.  Heretics were a cancer that needed to be cut out of the body of Christ.  To point at that behavior and call it ‘perverse’ or whatever is unjust.

Accordingly, who finds these things Calvin believed shocking?  Calvin?  16th Century persons?  Nope.  Viola?  Yup.  So, who made 21st century believers the arbiters of what is good or bad belief for everyone throughout the history of…

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Elder Justin Parvu: “He, who makes money his master, makes himself a servant to the devil”

Originally posted on Dover Beach:

Justin Parvu

“Our modern man puts too much heart into trifles and details, is assaulted by a lot of false things and does not know how to choose…Our contemporary man has become too materialistic, a subject to the new tyrant: money. Everywhere we look, we hear that money is everything, the master of this world. He, who makes money his master, makes himself a servant to the devil”
– Elder Justin Parvu

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The ‘I’m Open To The Possibility’ Cult

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:

You’ve probably seen the little phrase ‘…but I’m open to the possibility that…’.  This phrase is an attempt to portray oneself to be a neutral observer.  I’m all for neutrality – especially when it comes to things we have no evidence for and claims for which there are equally good arguments on both sides.

What I object to, however, is the cult presently worshiping the notion that we should be open to every possibility.  Sorry, but no we shouldn’t.  Know why?  Because some ideas are just stupid.  And they’re held by stupid people.  And we are under no obligation to pretend that we think the claims of those stupid people are true.

When, for instance, someone says ‘I think Jesus really existed, but I’m open to the possibility that he didn’t’ it’s impossible for me to take anything that person says seriously.  The idea that Jesus didn’t exist is stupid…

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