First of all, before I proceed, I want you to know I am not sending out personalized invitations to my pity party. I've had my share of those and they never really end well. I do want to give you a little insight into a pastor's world.
I just completed Wednesday Bible study notes to teach tomorrow evening. Now I am preparing to close my door to the outside world and study for Sunday. Typically, this is about a 10 to 12 hour total effort from reading the Scripture, mind dump (writing everything I can think of about the subject on piece of paper, mind map (organizing the mind dump into a logical sequence), sending first draft off to an assistant, asking myself the eternal question "so what?" about what I have written, finalizing the notes before I go over them with the two campus pastors in case of emergency. All of that is before I even get to the platform on Sunday to deliver the message to the people. (You know those who just copy their sermons from a book or from the internet may be on to something after all.)
I get a copy of the order of worship about Tuesday from the worship leader's assistant. It is revised a few times before Sunday. I get a weekly report on financial contributions so that I may know whether to challenge or compliment the congregation as to their willingness to cooperate financially in the work of the kingdom on Sunday.
It's summer, so I am also concerned with the budget for our next fiscal year. It begins September 1 so we have to get it done over the summer months so we may present it to the church in August. It is never easy. Even in the best of years there is not enough money to do all the Lord has laid on my heart. It's even harder this year in that I had to tell the staff I could not recommend an increase in their salaries this 2011 - 2012. I also secretly worry about it's presentation. While we haven't had an ugly ministry meeting in years when we vote to approve the budget, it is always in the back of my mind.
In between studying and preparing for this weeks sermon, I am planning for the next series. I am always reading ahead. I have three file folders going right now with thoughts and resources for my next three series. In between all of this I am praying with people who are sick, abused, in a spiritual battle, in marital distress, and in many cases all of the above.
So what did you notice was missing? Worship! Even Sunday's when most of Dallas Bay is enjoying a great time of worship I am thinking about how the message will be received that morning. Or, if the baptistmal candidates showed up. Or, if the sound system is going to act up again. Often the morning quickly passes by and instead of being refreshed I am beat knowing it all begins again Monday morning.
As I was reading in Leviticus this week, I began to understand the text a little better. I began to put myself in the place of the priest standing at the entrance to the temple. There are several chapters dedicated to descibing how Israelites were to bring their offerings to the Lord. For the first time I looked at the scene from the perspective of the temple priests. Each pilgrim came forward to present their offering for the forgiveness of their sins, or to thank God for a good crop, or to dedicate a newborn member of the family. This was deeply spiritual experience for each one of them. But all the priests could see is people lined up as far as the eye could see tethered to lambs, goats, bulls, or carrying pigeons or doves in baskets. Each one would be handed to them to have it's head wrenched from it's body or the neck cut by a sacred knife. The blood would have to be appropriately drained and offered on the altar according to the Levitical law. While the one bringing the sacrifice to the priest would walk away praising God, I can imagine the lips of the bloody and tired priest could only utter, "Next!"
I love what I do and consider myself a fortunate man. But occasionally I would like to be that person who walks up to the priest with offering in hand and leaves praising God, instead of always saying, Next!" Until then I hang on to this promise.
Revelation 14:13 (NKJV)
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."
Talk to you soon. I've got to close my door now and get started on Sunday' message.