A few weeks ago I had a spiritual retreat at the Cove in Asheville. It was a time to get away by myself to pray and seek the Lord concerning my own spiritual life and also the future of Forest Hills Baptist Church. The whole experience was profitable as I was able to completely detach and saturate my soul in the presence of God. I plan to make this spiritual retreat an annual thing in my pastoral ministry. Spiritual retreats are profitable for any Christian, but especially for pastors. For you pastors out there, let me give you some reasons why you should prioritize an annual spiritual retreat.
1. You Need Spiritual Rest
Pastoral ministry is unlike any profession. You simply cannot fake spiritual health for long. As a pastor you are constantly and continually pouring into peoples life through the preaching ministry, counseling, and pastoral care. The pastor is a man who must always give from deep within his own soul and he must also be a man who keeps his own soul filled. A pastor must first shepherd his own soul before he can shepherd others. He cannot give what he does not have. To take a few days to for spiritual rest, restoration, and refilling can be incredibly helpful and provides needed rest.
You might be afraid of leaving your church for a few days and getting out of town on a spiritual retreat. You may not think you can afford the time! “There is much ministry to be done”, you say. Yet you cannot afford not too. Before man can be poured out as a drink offering for his people he must be filled with the great joyous love of Christ. To take time away to refill the cup again is not only the best thing you can do for your own soul, but also for the souls of your flock. A tired shepherd is quick to fall asleep while watching his sheep. Get your rest so that you may be alert and awake as you watch not only your own soul but the souls of those entrusted to you by the chief shepherd.
2. You Need Time to Plan
A key part of my spiritual retreat was to plan out the next year in ministry. Not only did I set out to create goals and plans for Forest Hills Baptist Church, I also set out to plan the preaching calendar for the next year. This sort of concentrated planning takes a great deal of time and uninterrupted focus. So often pastors find themselves moving from one crisis to the next and unable to focus on what is most important–the ministry of the Word and prayer. Many spend all their efforts working for the church they spend little time working on the church. Leaders need concentrated time to focus on the big picture.
Taking the time to prayerfully seek God’s guidance in the future of your church is good not only for you but for the church. Taking the time away is a labor of love as you plot the path you will lead God’s flock. Take the time to travel up the mountain of the Lord so that you may hear his voice so that you may return to your people with the word of God to which to lead them.
3. You Need to Be Filled
Pastors need to be filled. Often this happens through diligent study and reading. Although I was by myself on my spiritual retreat I had a myriad of different teachers pouring into me. From sermons from Martyn-Lloyd Jones on the four hour drive, to Bunyan’s classic allegory Pilgrim’s progress, to the quaint honest soul searching of C.S. Lewis, I was in good company. Most importantly though I had the Holy Spirit as my teacher using the Scriptures to convict me of sin, grow me, and lead me. Learning, studying, and growing are life long endeavors for every Christian, even pastors.
4. You Need to Enjoy God
Pastor, be a lover of God. Long for his presence as a deer painting for streams of water. Do not be so focused on your daily ministry that you cease to delight in the one in whose name you are ministering. The labor of pastoral ministry can be fierce, demanding, draining, and exhausting. It is often in that busyness that we forget to enjoy His presence. Spending a few days by yourself will bring you to your knees. It provides focus and clarity on the lover of your soul. For who else do you have to talk to but God? Solitude ushers in a continual conversation with God as you walk with him and talk with him. Pause and enjoy the wondrous truth that the through the blood of Christ you have a relationship with the God of the universe. What a privilege it is to know him! Take the time away and be with Him.
As a pastor you are limited. Even young men fall exhausted, but it is those who wait on the Lord who will find themselves with the strength of the Eagle (Is 40). As pastor you must be a man daily dependent in every season on God, yet it is appropriate to spend some extra time away reminding yourself that it is in Him that you breath, and move, and find your being.
If you have yet to take a spiritual retreat, let me encourage you to do so. The Cove is a wonderful place to go and I highly recommend it. Yet a spiritual retreat can be at any location where you can disconnect and spend extended time in solitude and worship.
Have you ever taken a spiritual retreat? Would you recommend it to others? Why or Why not? Share with us in the comments below!