I write this today not because I am perfect in anyway at this, but because I have spoken with other pastors who I think sometimes are hurting their own ministries by not learning to evaluate their time better.
We have all been there, the phone rings and someone has what seems a life or death situation to them, and when we rush in to help. We later take time to evaluate, and realize that this was not a life or death situation. Maybe we have been jolted from bed to rush to the hospital. Maybe we just received a call right after arriving to the office and now our whole day is on hold. The emergencies at times can be very real; however, in some cases they can be less than true emergencies.
I have had my share of calls begging for help, or demanding my attention. Being in a smaller church I do my best to respond to the needs as they arise. I remember being stopped once night as I rushed to the hospital, and being warned by a policeman to slow down. That night the emergency was real, a young husband died and a family had serious need of comfort. I have had other occasions of middle of the night phone calls from those leaving sinful lifestyles, and needing someone to pick them up in the middle of fairly dangerous neighborhood. One night I was driving home after helping someone, in a neighborhood that I shouldn't have been in at that hour of the day, I thought of my wife at home. I thought of how she would be out of a home, in great distress, and alone if I would have been hurt or killed.
I know that ministry calls us to be available, and to do our best to meet the needs of those we are trying to help. However, I believe God gives us the brain power to better decide when we are really the right person to help. I have listened to other pastors share their stories of late nights out, of nearly becoming stranded in storms, or simply allowing others to take advantage of both their caring nature and their position as a minister. I am struck with the amazing way we can stroke our own ego by thinking we can be some kind of superhero's to our congregations. We are undershepherds of the Good Shepherd. Sometimes we need to better evaluate our time, and ability to meet others needs.
Moses had to do this in Exodus 18. His father-in-law Jethro confronted him on trying to solve all the problems of the people all on his own. Jethro suggested that he allow others to help bear the load. In the end only the most important problems came to Moses, and everyone's problems were cared for by the whole community. We need to stop and evaluate how we are doing at this in our own lives and ministries. Perhaps we should let someone else take some of our burdens. Perhaps we need to learn to say no, when we know the situation is not an emergency. Perhaps we need to recognize that we just may not be the superhero, the fireman, or the EMT that they are really in need of at that moment.
May God help us all to do better about managing and living our lives for Him.