Summer is here! The kids are happy that school has ended until fall.
Dad is looking forward to those few weeks when he doesn’t have to show up for work. Mom is adjusting to a new schedule with dad and the kids underfoot. By now she is looking for that promised vacation—but most likely it will not come this year.
In many churches, it is not ministry as usual. The summer months seem to produce a slump because of the uncertain schedule of the congregation. Outside of Vacation Bible School there is little activity until September when school begins and the church gears up for another year of programs and ministry. Church attendees say, “It’s too cold in the auditorium; turn the air conditioner down,” while others say, “Please turn the air conditioner up—I’m too hot!”
Too often the summer months are tagged the dog days of summer. Many see it as a time when the heat has immobilized us for ministry. Some Christians head off to their boat on the lake, others to the shopping mall to stay cool. In the summer we try to go from one air-conditioned place to another—house, car, business, and restaurant—to escape the hot summer days.
It makes no difference what season it is: ministry must go on. I never read in the Bible that the workers closed down ministry because the weather was too hot or cold.
Granted, there needs to be a break in routine, a time when body, soul, and spirit can be renewed and revived. But that does not mean Christians should take a vacation from serving the Lord. Summer months should not be looked on as the “dog days of summer.” They are days of great opportunity for pastors and all believers alike to engage in ministries such as the VBS program, state or county fairs, and public summer outings in town to meet new people and make friends. It makes no difference what season it is: ministry must go on. I never read in the Bible that the workers closed down ministry because the weather was too hot or cold. In fact, it was very hot in the Middle East in the apostles’ day—they did not have the comforts of home and travel that we have today. Believers, especially pastors, all need to guard against certain attitudes just because summer has arrived.
First, we must be careful of shlepping (Yiddish word) through our day. A shlepper is described as a person that drags lazily through his day inefficiently and carelessly without purpose because it is summer time and things often move slower.
Second, we need to guard against slacking off and instead be busy planning for future ministry. Personally, I am continually writing blogs, articles, tracts, and booklets on major themes in the Bible, and I am always available to others needing counseling. More could be added, but any pastor can understand and relate to the never-ending things involved in the ministry in any season of the year.
Third, we must recognize that pastors are always under pressure to prepare soul-stirring sermons. Every Sunday people attend church with great expectations. They expect that the pastor has prepared an inspirational message that will equip them. They look for an edifying message that will help them face a new week of challenges in their family life, workplace, and personal struggles hidden in the deep recesses of their heart that only the Lord knows about.
Fourth, we are not to be slothful—that is, lazy or indolent. Slothful implies a temperamental inability to act promptly or speedily when called upon in the ministry. Paul detested laziness in church leaders and insubordinate attitudes within the church (1 Thess. 5:12-13). He called upon the church at Thessalonica to remember how he and the mission team conducted themselves in ministry. Paul said, “For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:9). In other words, Paul brought the “gospel of God” to them at great personal cost. He worked long hours at the trade of tentmaking, which he was taught as a young boy (Jewish fathers in the first century always taught their son a trade). He used his trade to support himself, and in so doing, he spread the gospel during and after work (Acts 18:3-4). Thus, no one could accuse Paul of being slothful.
Many pastors may have had to work while going to school or pastoring a small church, and they probably remember that time well. I, too, worked as a young pastor of a church while laboring at Sears auto garage in the summer to pay my way in the ministry. After work, I prepared messages for Sunday and Wednesday. This also was during the summer months working in a hot, dirty environment. Paul rose long before drawn, laboring and toiling day and night as a tentmaker to pay his own way in the ministry. He did this so as not to be a financial burden to the Thessalonian church.
Today many pastors choose to work a secular job while planting a new church or reviving an established church so as not to be burden to the people to whom they minister. Pastors in Eastern Europe must work outside the church because most churches are unable to pay them a living wage.
Fifth, please remember that both pastors and church members alike are serving the Lord this summer, not just themselves. Paul said of himself, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:1). Christ is the one that we must please, not ourselves. We all should view ourselves as “servants of Christ.” The word “servant” means a subordinate or assistant that wants to accomplish the commands of his superior, in this case, Christ. Such a person serves others in a variety of ways but always exalts those under whom they serve.
Paul did not relax in “the dog days of summer.” He was not a shlepper (dragging through his day), a slacker (asleep to his duties), or slothful (putting off ministry to a later time), but a servant under Christ, his superior (at the ready to assist or do whatever Christ demanded of him).
It makes no difference whether you are a pastor or within the congregation; this simple message is for all of us. We are well into summer, but it is not too late to seize each opportunity at hand and onward into the fall months with a renewed attitude and commitment to be Christ’s servant.