One of the biggest delusions of any ministry, especially pastoral ministry, is to think you are indispensible. It is a subtle delusion. But it is deadly. One of the first signs of this delusion is overwork. Most pastors / ministers are workaholics. That alone is often unbiblical and sinful. We quickly think there are only two categories – workaholic, or lazy. We then think we HAVE to be there and HAVE to do that and HAVE to make this meeting or see that person. Wife, husband, families become neglected, and tension appears. Pride then seeps in – we are the ONLY ones who can sort this problem out, do this talk, minister to this person.
I have had GREAT respect for John Piper’s ministry, his integrity and his life. Today, I have even GREATER respect, because what he has done today may have broken some chains for many, many pastors around the US and even the world.
John Piper has requested leave from his pastorate from May – December 2010. A portion of the reason for this says:
I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.
Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments…..
The difference between this leave and the sabbatical I took four years ago is that I wrote a book on that sabbatical (What Jesus Demands from the World). In 30 years, I have never let go of the passion for public productivity. In this leave, I intend to let go of all of it. No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements. There is one stateside exception—the weekend devoted to the Desiring God National Conferencecombined with the inaugural convocation of Bethlehem College and Seminary in October. Noël thought I should keep three international commitments. Our reasoning is that if she could go along, and if we plan it right, these could be very special times of refreshment together…..
I asked the elders not to pay me for this leave. I don’t feel it is owed to me. I know I am causing more work for others, and I apologize to the staff for that. Not only that, others could use similar time away. Most working men and women do not have the freedom to step back like this. The elders did not agree with my request. Noël and I are profoundly grateful for this kind of affection. We will seek the Lord for how much of your financial support to give back to the church, to perhaps bear some of the load.
Oh that pastors would be as secure in their walk with God, in their ministries, in their church and eldership to do this. I believe EVERY SINGLE pastor, at some point in their ministry, NEEDS to make such a request as this.
While John Piper’s reasons for this are solely for him and his family, his example will and should have a far wider impact.
Read the whole statement here, Pastors, and search your heart, and pray carefully whether this is something you need to consider for your ministry. I know that I will. And if you think to yourself, “I cannot possibly do that” – that it is a sure sign that you MUST do this.