Respect the Time Your Pastor Needs for Prayer and Sermon Preparation

One of the Calvinist Baptist ministers that came out of eighteenth-century evangelicalism was Samuel Pearce (1766–1799), who, in the words of Susan Huntington (1791–1823), was “pre-eminently a holy man.” He was the pastor of Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham where he served faithfully from 1790 until his death in 1799. With God’s blessing, the Birmingham congregation grew spiritually and numerically (more than 300 souls were converted) under Pearce’s preaching. Sunday school, benevolent society to assist the poor, and sick society to care for the afflicted were established during his ministry. Samuel Pearce

When William Belsher was ordained pastor in the Baptist congregation in Worcester, Worcestershire, it was Pearce who gave the ordination sermon. In this sermon, based on Ephesians 4:11, Pearce urged lovingly the church members to respect and protect their pastor’s time for prayer and study of God’s Word—the pastor’s two primary ministries listed in Acts 6:4, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Pearce said in that sermon,

“I want to convince you that, for your own sakes, you should promote a studious habit in your minister; allow him every inch of time he wants; neither call upon him, nor expect him to call upon you for no better purpose than to gossip; especially let his mornings and his Saturdays be sacred—it is little short of cruelty to interrupt him then. As you love him, so, no doubt, you will feel a pleasure in his company; but let him choose his own times for seeing you; and do not accuse him of criminal negligence, if his visits are less frequent than you expect. Perhaps at the very moment of your disappointment, he was studying something against the Lord’s Day for your case—perhaps at the moment you are censuring him for his neglect, he is wrestling with God for you in his closet.”[1]

Commenting on Pearce’s message, church historian Michael Haykin (to whom I am indebted for my own study of Pearce) writes, “Here Pearce surely speaks from personal experience of the tension that pastors in the Protestant tradition have repeatedly faced: the need to devote substantial time to sermon-preparation and prayer while also caring for the souls of those in their churches.”[2]

Pastors of large congregations especially struggle with this tension. What is striking, though, in Pearce’s admonition is the fact that the church members are to respect their pastor’s prayer and sermon preparation time for their own sake. Now, if you are a church member, you might say, “How can this be for my own sake?” Well, imagine having a pastor who does not have sufficient time to intercede regularly for you. Imagine a pastor who does not have enough time to study for his sermons. You obviously want to hear good sermons from your pastor; but good sermons do not write themselves. Your pastor must devote many hours to praying, studying, and writing out his messages (and hopefully getting some rest!) before he stands behind the pulpit. In his article “How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?” Thom Rainer concludes that “70% of pastors’ sermon preparation time is the narrow range of 10 to 18 hours per sermon.”[3]

Let’s just say that your pastor needs 15 hours to prepare for one sermon. If he preaches twice, then 30 hours of his time is spent just for preparation. He still has other duties such as meetings to attend, visits to make, members to counsel, emails to reply to, phone calls to make, Sunday School or Catechism lessons to prepare, a family to take care of, and other unexpected responsibilities such as a funeral. If you don’t respect your pastor’s time for sermon preparation, the entire congregation will suffer eventually by having a half-cooked sermon, which can result in spiritual malnourishment among the members.

If you are an elder in your church, you have the responsibility to make sure that your pastor is getting enough time for prayer and study of God’s Word. Remember, your pastor is to devote himself “to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Unfortunately, some elders have unrealistic expectations from their pastor. As a result, their pastor burns out and becomes ineffective in the ministry, which in turn affects the life of the church.

Elders should regularly ask their pastor, “Are you getting enough rest? Are you still able to exercise? Are you still able to fulfill your holy duty as a husband and father? How is your prayer life? Are you still able to pray for us on a regular basis, not just on Sunday or during prayer meeting? Are you getting enough time for sermon preparation?” A pastor should honestly answer these questions, so that his elders can properly help him for the sake of their congregation.

 

 

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[1] The Duty of Ministers to be Nursing Fathers to the Church; and the Duty of Churches To Regard Ministers as the Gift of Christ (London, 1796), 51–52. Italics in the original.

[2] The Piety of Samuel and Sarah Pearce (Joshua Press, 2012), 12.

[3] “How Much Time Do Pastors Spend Preparing a Sermon?,” https://thomrainer.com/2013/06/how-much-time-do-pastors-spend-preparing-a-sermon/.

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Evangelical Spirituality Ministry Prayer Preaching Samuel Pearce

Cheerful Submission to God’s Will

Calvinistic Baptist by conviction, Samuel Pearce was born in Plymouth, England on July 20, 1766. He grew up in a godly family. However, as he matured in age he became involved in wickedness. But by God’s grace, when he was about sixteen, he experienced evangelical conversion.

On July 20, 1783, on his seventeenth birthday, Pearce was baptized and became a member of the Baptist congregation in Plymouth. Three years later in November, 1786, having recognized his ministerial gifts, that same church called him into the ministry. To further equip himself for the ministry, from 1786 to 1789, he studied at the Bristol Baptist Academy. Then in 1790 the year after he completed his theological training, he was formally called to be the pastor of Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

In 1794 convinced that the Lord was calling him to be a missionary, he considered going to India to help William Carey and John Thomas. But the administrative committee of the Baptist Missionary Society, which sent Carey and Thomas, thought that Pearce could be more effective in England. Pearce’s reaction to this decision displays an important aspect of his spirituality: cheerful submission to God’s will. For instance, the day after he received the decision, Pearce wrote to his wife: “I am disappointed, but not dismayed. I ever wish to make my Saviour’s will my own.” Likewise, writing to Carey, Pearce said:

Instead of a letter, you perhaps expected to have seen the writer; and had the will of God been so, he would by this time have been on his way to Mudnabatty [where Carey was staying]: but it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps…I must submit now to stand still, and see the salvation of God.

Remaining a preacher until he died in 1799 at the age of thirty three, Pearce left behind his wife and five children, and also a spiritual legacy best expressed by William Ward: “I have seen more of God in him than in any other person I ever met.”

When things happen not according to what you want, do you cheerfully submit to God’s will?

Samuel Pearce submission William Carey