We reached out to several Texas Baptists pastors and asked them to share the importance of personal spiritual health and practices that they incorporate into their daily lives to remain strong in the Lord.
There are several ways to focus on your own spiritual health, one way, in particular, is to follow the model of Christ. Jesus frequently retreated in order to pray (Matthew 14:23, Mk.6:46, Luke 6:12, Lk.18:1 and Jn. 17). Make time to be alone with God; that may be early mornings or late nights, but make time for silence. Devotional Reading and "Journaling" the thoughts that come to mind after meditating on God's Word is another method (Ps.1, Ps.63:6, Ps.119:15, Ps.143).
Knowing where our supply comes from keeps us in proper relationship with God and others. It is when we lose sight of our dependence on Him that we begin to fall out of His will. There is nothing about us that suggests that we can make it without God for one second. When we are keenly aware of our complete need for Him, we can be strengthened in our relationship.
It is critical for me as a pastor to focus on my own personal spiritual health because my pursuit of Christ or lack thereof impacts my people. Pastors must not sacrifice growth in godliness for fruitful ministry. We cannot lead our congregations while on life-support. One of the best ways I have found to strengthen my relationship with the Lord is to consistently take my day off. Resting away from the office and allowing the scriptures to permeate my heart and mind prepares me to lead my team, church family and speak truth each week. Shepherding God’s people requires self-sacrifice, not self-neglect.
I have chosen to share my spiritual journey with a close friend who holds the role of spiritual director and encourager in my life. I believe real spiritual health cannot be found in solitude. It is a shared experience. In selecting this close friend, I look for someone I can be totally transparent with and can share the joys and struggles of life and ministry. Sometimes, he listens as I vent and pour out my heart, at other times he holds me accountable, and at other times we just share life together. Being a local church pastor can be a very lonely role of leadership even though the ministry is played out among the masses. All spiritual leaders need a “safe” person to walk in the light with as they lead the church.
I try to incorporate necessary rhythms to my spiritual life to keep me connected to the Lord. Daily, I spend time in the morning, usually an hour, studying the scriptures, reading, and praying. I never use this time for sermon prep so as not to confuse my role as a teacher with my role as a son sitting at the feet of his Daddy. I also try to block out a time a least a couple times a month in my office where I close my office door, pull out my guitar and worship and pray. I get on my face and confess sin and refocus on the Gospel. Then, I journal prayer requests for my family, my church, and my life. Also, I spend a couple of hours each week, praying each sermon in the rooms where I will be preaching. I pray for connectedness to the Lord, for His power, and for the humility to receive the word myself. This keeps preaching from becoming a job and makes it a ministry to my soul first and foremost before I offer it to His people. Finally, and probably most importantly, I take a couple of times a year to go on a fasting retreat with various staff where my only objective for the retreat is to drink deep of God’s presence. Fasting with other believers has been a balm to my soul and has recentered me in ways that just my normal daily time with Jesus couldn’t accomplish. Any one of these activities on its own would be helpful but not complete. When they all work in conjunction, they work to feed my soul and ground me in the Gospel.
There are myriad of things I do and have done to remain spiritually healthy. My mornings always include some kind of spiritual reflection (reading, journaling, prayer, etc.). I read a lot of materials that help with this (e.g., books and so forth), listen to sermons from various preachers throughout the day, and attend conferences, associational meetings, pastor retreats, and so forth. I have also kept mentors through the years, including some of the great pastors in Texas like Paul Powell, Ralph Smith, David Dykes, and many more. My daily exercise routine helps a lot with this—as does just getting out of the office.