“We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.” Acts 6:4b
With the increasing number of disciples, came increasing needs and complaints. This threatened to cause the apostles to neglect their primary ministry of giving themselves “continually” (KJV) to prayer and God’s Word. They needed the help of other believers that were “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Moses also needed help as He led the Israelites. His father-in-law, Jethro, said, “You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone” (Exodus 18:18). Jethro then advised Moses to appoint leaders to help him so He would be able to stand the strain. How often do we consider the strain our pastors are under, and how it might be taking them away from the ministry of God’s Word and prayer?
Pastoring is heavy work. In a LifeWay survey of 1500 pastors, 84 percent said they’re on call 24 hours a day, 54 percent found the role of pastor frequently overwhelming, and 48 percent often felt the demands of ministry are more than they can handle. When the CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, Thom Rainer, interviewed pastors about burnout, the number one response to overcoming burnout was spending more time in prayer and God’s Word. He quoted one pastor as saying, “Slowly over time, I spent less and less time in the Bible and in prayer. I succumbed to the tyranny of the urgent. When I committed to reversing that pattern, my life and leadership began to renew.” Urgent, daily needs will always be part of our church communities. Are we becoming disciples that are filled with the Spirit and wisdom so we can help with those needs? Are we serving in our churches to help lighten our pastors’ loads, or are we merely consumers looking only for what the church can do for us?
The ministry of God’s Word cannot be taken lightly. Pastors are called to correctly handle God’s Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As teachers of His Word, they will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1). They are also charged with watching over and giving an account to God for the souls He has entrusted to their leadership (Hebrews 13:17 KJV). It’s God’s Word that saves the lost souls, and feeds the saved souls. So the ministry of His Word is critical to all of us. It’s in our best, eternal interest that our pastors are able to give a large part of their attention to it. Are we helping to protect that ministry? Because the apostles’ kept prayer and God’s Word as the focus of their ministry and shared the other responsibilities, the Word of God spread, and the number of disciples or saved souls increased rapidly (Acts 6:7). May it be the same in our churches today.
Prayer: Father, thank you for pastors. Thank you for their sacrifices and courage to be ministers of your Word, for their willingness to be held to a higher standard by you for the handling of your Word. Help them keep your Word and prayer a priority so that many souls are saved and fed. Please fill us with your Spirit and wisdom so we can help in this critical ministry. Stir us up out of the pews so we can share in the responsibilities of caring for the needs of our church communities. Let us not in any way hinder the progress of Jesus’ Great Commission. In the name of Jesus, the Word who became flesh, and the One who makes our burdens light. Amen!