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Craig Groeschel: We Innovate for Jesus
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Mark Driscoll: Revelation
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Resurgence Leadership #033: John Piper, Why I Trust the Scriptures, Part 1
Tue Sep 23, 2014
4 things I wish I’d known about being a pastor at Christmas
Christmastime is often a stressful time for pastors, but it is brimming with opportunity. Here’s what I wish I’d known about being a pastor during this season.
There are many things I was prepared to face in pastoral ministry, thanks to my seminary education. But one thing caught me completely off guard: the unique pressures and possibilities the holiday season presents. Here is what I have learned the hard way.
1. Energy is scarce
In my twenty years of experience, the two busiest months in a pastor’s year are December and May (the month school concludes where I have lived). May is twice as busy as other months, but December is twice as busy as May. Church services are numerous. There are endless social gatherings to attend. There is pressure to communicate the familiar Advent stories in new and creative ways to people who have heard them all many times. And church members are busy too while they face mounting financial and relational strains.
December is the best month to schedule fewer events and meetings, and those that make it on the calendar must be shorter than normal. But most churches and pastors do the exact opposite: they have more events and meetings that last longer.
The unique pressures and possibilities the holiday season presents caught me completely off guard.
The outcome is tragic. Pastors and active members are like zombies by the time they get to their few precious days with family during Christmastime. Then, without the necessary recovery, they are launched into the New Year with little relief to be found until summer arrives six months later.
2. Pain is amplified
I once asked a divorced friend what Christmas meant to him. He said, “It’s the most awkward time of the year. I am reminded of how broken my life is.”
Many people have a similar story. They spend Christmas either depressed and alone or frustrated and hurt by spending time with those who should love them but don’t. Depression is heightened. Hope is fleeting. Then drunkenness, drug abuse, domestic violence, and sexual immorality happen far too frequently.
December is the best month to schedule fewer events and meetings, and those that make it on the calendar must be shorter than normal.
Practically, this means the pastor is on call 24/7/12 (days of Christmas). He must plan to care for those under his charge who are hurting and vulnerable. He can do this by keeping large blocks of his schedule open for the unscheduled yet critical appointment.
3. Conversations are plentiful
Because of the social nature of the season and the religious context of Christmas, there are many opportunities to tell people about Jesus. Office parties, family gatherings, friendly gift exchanges, and even shopping encounters open doors to the gospel that are locked shut from January through November. I have realized how important it is to have church members pray for the people who don’t yet know Jesus in their lives leading up to the holiday season. Then, it’s just as important to train them to walk through the open doors of conversation. School the people you serve in gospel talk.
Because of the social nature of the season and the religious context of Christmas, there are many opportunities to tell people about Jesus.
4. Conversions are common
Jesus saves sinners all year round, but the heightened awareness of his Incarnation and the emptiness of life without him during the holiday season leads many people to consider him then. In my experience, aside from Easter, there are more conversions at Christmastime than any other time of the year.
This raises the importance of preaching. Make it your goal to be at your preaching best during the holiday season. Treat the four Sundays of Advent as four consecutive Easter Sundays in December. Resist the pressure to give away pulpit time to special music and drama. And keep in mind that many of those gathered on Sunday know a lot about Christmas, but nothing about Jesus. Introduce them to each other, and then watch what Jesus does through Holy Spirit-filled gospel preaching!