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Usually about 7:30 a.m. each Sunday, he strolls into my office. Always his tie is loosened, and he’s drinking coffee out of his favorite mug.
My pastor and I typically chat about just a few things during this weekly exchange. There might be a few comments on a weekend sporting event, or light discussion about what’s ahead of him for the day – but I avoid talking about one specific topic.
That topic? Anything that will distract him.
When I was seventeen and felt called into ministry, I wasn’t sure what to call it… But I felt a burden for what I saw my Dad deal with as pastor. Namely, all the things that were a distraction from his proclaiming the Bible on Sundays. I didn’t know then that an executive pastor role directly addresses that burden I was feeling. I wondered then, and I wonder now – is there something I can do to alleviate, mitigate, or at least help to postpone the “things” that could be a distraction for my pastor? Can you do this?
No doubt, pastors have to deal with other things than preaching. But as much as I can control it, they don’t have to deal with them on Sunday morning right before they preach (or whatever day and time they preach).
Even this past Sunday when Mike moseyed into my office, I glanced at the “Mike” page of my task-list and saw several important things to discuss with him. Although I was tempted to bring them up, I quickly determined none of them had to be discussed between that moment and when he’d preach 30 minutes later.
If you’re a church leader or staff member… strive to preserve your pastor’s time on Sunday mornings. Keep your conversations and topics to be only those that will bring encouragement or end with “Is there anything I can do to serve you today?”
You’ll be tempted to talk about more, but hold your tongue, write it down, and deal with later (and yes, that means delaying delivery of emails until after he’s preached). I’m convinced Satan will use anything to distract a preacher from being Spirit-controlled while proclaiming the Gospel. Do everything you can to keep him far from sin, and close to Christ.
If you’re a preaching pastor and this boundary isn’t respected, I suggest two things to mitigate the distraction:
- With staff and key leaders, ask them not to bring up matters that aren’t time-sensitive on Sunday mornings. As a human with a God-sized task, ask for some latitude. Again, you’re ultimately going to do deal with whatever they have – just postpone your involvement until you’re finished preaching.
- With congregants, get good at saying things like, “That sounds important, but is there any way you can connect with me later so I can focus and pray over the next few minutes?” And if that doesn’t work, you might even have to limit your congregational fellowship time before the service, or focus most of that time until after you’re finished preaching.
If you do this, let some key lay leaders know. They then can be your cheerleaders if they hear grumblings about your lack of engagement pre-service.
I like problem-solving pastors. I like people-loving pastors. But what I like most is the Gospel being proclaimed from a person who is sinless and focused on proclaiming the message God has given them.
It takes discipline from the pastor and those who serve alongside him, but the here’s the practical takeaway: leave your pastor alone (at least before he’s preaching).