Recreation in the Ministry

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Puritan Board Sophomore
What do you make of Baxter's words in relation the recreation time of a Minister?

"Recreation to a minister must be as whetting is with the mower, that is, only to be used as far as is necessary for his work. May a physician in a plague-time take any more relaxation or recreation than is necessary for his life, when so many are expecting his help in a case of life and death?"

"Will you stand by and see sinners gasping under the pangs of death, and say, God doth not require me to make myself a drudge to save them? Is this the voice of ministerial or Christian compassion, or rather of sensual laziness and diabolical cruelty?"

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor


Puritan Board Junior
I think a horse with the bit between its teeth will run until it collapses. But a tug on the bit will slow him down for respite. We are to run the race set before us, but we need a gentle reminder to halt a mad dash. Relaxation by a healthy and lawful diversion is needful for mind and body.


Puritanboard Snowflake
In all my days prior to becoming the pastor of a local church, I've never held a position in which finding time to recreate has been more challenging, and the need for it more necessary.

Don't get me wrong, thus far as a local church pastor the peaks of intensity have never risen as high as when I was a US Army chaplain. In the military, when things go crazy, things go off the charts insane. But those moments, while they did occur with some degree of regularity, weren't so routine that my ministry work environment was characterized by them. Frankly, I enjoyed much time off: in addition to annual vacation, I had a 4-day weekend nearly every month, and when I wasn't preaching I had a nice "normal" weekend every week. Plus, daily exercise - which is actually a part of your workday - helps one handle and deal with stress (something I didn't realize when I was an 18 year old private cursing about having to do a 5 mile run).

As a pastor, I've never had 2 days in a row off (unless I'm on vacation). There's no such thing as a long weekend. There's always sermon prep, or lesson prep, or meeting prep, or calls, or visits... that usually occur when it is convenient for my people, and over food... which means I miss meals with my family, etc. Plus there's the travel time between appointments... and there's always more praying that could be done, more reading I could do...

Please hear me: I'm not complaining, I enjoy and am fulfilled by my calling. It has been thrilling to see what God has done in and with my congregation in the 2 years since my arrival. I'm just saying: there is always the sensation that there is something to be done, and finding the time to recreate is a discipline. I've been thinking about that, actually... I think that while for many people they spend too much time with their leisure, for some of us, I think that recreation might actually need to be approached like a spiritual discipline.

Just this past Saturday (while the Michigan v Penn St game was playing) I was telling Todd that I normally spend my Saturday nights reading systematics, but I take college football season off from that practice so that I can spend a few months of the year simply enjoying football. In my case, it is a needed period of mental rest.
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
The majority of pastors I know feel the urgency of the work quite keenly and are constantly tempted to underestimate the amount of downtime they require. They don't need to hear to hear Baxter say they must take the minimum amount possible; rather, they need to hear that it's okay to relax more.

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
While I certainly agree that ministers should work steadfastly as unto the Lord, Baxter's quote seems to place too much burden on the minister, as if taking a day off would leave heaven empty and hell unduly filled.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks everyone for these thoughts. It certainly seems that Baxter has overstated his point.

I wonder what the prevailing thoughts would be on matter from ministers in Baxter's day?
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