Do Not Disturb the Pastor

Published 5:31 pm Saturday, January 27, 2024

By Michael J. Brooks

Dr. W. A. Criswell was a mentor for many in my generation. He served for 50 years as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and for two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was a prolific writer and lecturer. I heard Criswell many times at pastors’ conferences and many times on cassette tapes (remember those?). I also had the occasion once to dine with him through a mutual friend who made this happen.

Criswell taught us to take the preaching task and the worship task seriously. I worshiped at First Baptist once when he was pastor, and it was moving to see the kneelers he’d requested the church install. He knelt for the pastoral prayer, and the congregation knelt, too.

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Criswell taught us two things about time management. He said to give your Saturday nights and your weekday mornings to God. He cautioned against Saturday night engagements, insisting we should rather rest for the rigors of Sunday. He also taught that weekday mornings should be undisturbed as times to seek God and his word.

In my earlier ministry years I’d try to guard my mornings, isolating myself and returning phone calls after lunch. This wasn’t always possible. I remember a custodian who came every Friday morning and talked for 45 minutes, and a treasurer who came in every Thursday to sign checks. He insisted on handing my check to me, and then he’d promptly snatch it back and make a joke about it. Every week. Then he’d talk for 30 minutes and tell me what he’d done that week.

I yet have mixed emotions about these interruptions. One could argue that these were pastoral opportunities to encourage others.

My current office is adjacent to the main entrance, so no one much enters our building without my greeting them and talking at least for a few minutes. And I can’t insist my sermons were more biblical in those more uninterrupted days.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to how a pastor manages study time. Some do this by working at a home office. Remote work is common today, so this is a good option for some. Another pastor told me he tried this but found that when he didn’t show up at church, the other staff didn’t either, so he transitioned back to the office!

I’ve also learned that I can arrive in the office early and have two hours or so of uninterrupted study time. Plus, I can work on my laptop when home in the evenings.

The Apostle Paul counseled that pastors must “study to show [themselves] approved by God” (2 Timothy 2:15).

How pastors do this varies according to their unique situations.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.