People planting a church and working at the same time – a bivocational situation – are under tremendous strain. Pastoring a church in itself is challenging. Particularly for bivocational pastors, having time to cultivate your own relationship with Jesus is difficult.
But receiving the love of Christ is the foundation of everything. Communing with Jesus and enjoying him is so important. I have to keep asking myself, “Can I get myself still enough? Do I have enough space to be receiving his love?” It can happen when I’m active once in a while, but I have to be alone with him in silence for it to really occur.
That’s the first issue. Number two is, if you’re married, your marriage has to be cultivated. So you first need space to be with God, and secondly, you need space to cultivate your marriage. If your marriage is simply beginning to serve the building of the church, that’s dangerous.
My covenant vows were to my marriage, not to the church. The temptation is to ride over your spouse’s needs and limits. But those needs and limits are actually a gift to you!
Maybe your spouse says, “I don’t want to start that second service. We’re overwhelmed right now. You’re already working full-time at this other job.” You might want to say, “God’s working it out. We’re going to go for it.” But I would argue that it’s a huge red light. The strain on the marriage would be great.
Guard your marriage. Make sure you listen to your spouse. Place your marriage and family before the church.
The third emotional health issue is taking care of yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I need to be whole?” Everyone has different capacities. Mine are different than yours. Yours are different than other pastors’ capacities. But no one is Jesus.
When we invite people to follow Christ, we invite them as leaders. We say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” That means taking a look at myself. Do I really want people to follow my life? Or am I embarrassed by it? What does my lifestyle say? Sabbath-keeping is a bare minimum. But when you’re bivocational, that Sabbath might have to be creative.
Make sure you tune into your hobbies. Play; have fun; be aware of that in your life. You’re cultivating the presence of light! Whether it’s nature, books, traveling, motorcycling—whatever it might be for you—do what turns on the light in you. That’s nurturing God’s presence in your spirit.
Taking care of yourself is taking care of the church. It’s like soil; your soil needs to rest so that God can implant nutrients in it. In the Old Testament, every seven years was the “Sabbath year” for the soil. In the same way, your soil needs rhythm. It might mean the church builds more slowly, but you can trust God. He’ll build the numbers. He’ll build when it’s time. Respect your God-given humanity, the material he put into you.
Pete Scazzero is the founding pastor of New Life Fellowship in New York. He is also the author of several excellent books on emotional health.
– from Cutting Edge, Summer 2010