Serving as a pastor of a local church is a difficult job. Each of us need all the help we can get. No one can help us like God.
A Call to Pastors
In 1980, at an evening session of the Texas Baptist Evangelism Conference in Dallas, I heard the late and great W.A. Criswell challenge pastors to give their mornings to God. The following Sunday, I stood before the small church I pastored, the First Baptist Church of Milford, Texas, and announced my decision to give my mornings completely to God for prayer and study. All these years, I have lived by this firm commitment. I can tell you this: Nothing has ascended my spiritual life and level of leadership more than this allocated time each morning.
Pastors, my call to you is to give your mornings to God. Obviously, the Lord Himself must call you to do this, but I believe firmly that since Jesus rose before daybreak to be with the Father, we certainly need to do so some in our lives.
My Morning Schedule
Over the years, on a typical day, my schedule has evolved into getting up at 3:00 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday. If I am traveling, especially across time zones, this schedule may be negotiated. Friday and Saturday are for family and rest, and of course, Sunday is a very different kind of day.
On Saturday night, I usually struggle going to sleep, anticipating the day ahead. My goal is to be in bed with lights off by 10:15 p.m., if possible. My alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m., and I head into my office, stopping first to prepare a cup of strong coffee or green tea, grab my iPad, (on which I keep my prayer list), my Bible, and my journal. I begin in prayer, moving into the Word, interweaving with prayer, and journaling a prayer to God — which I've done daily since January 1, 1990. I am a big believer in having a spiritual journal.
At 4:45 a.m., I jog on my treadmill for an hour, going over my sermon, praying through it, and talking through it aloud. This is where I move to mastering the sermon. After an hour on the treadmill, I call a prayer partner for a few minutes. I have called this man every Sunday morning since 1989, and it is a practice I strongly encourage pastors to develop. If I am not fasting, I then eat a light breakfast and head for the shower.
By 7:35 a.m. I am on my way to church. After touching base with our leaders for ten minutes, I am in my office for prayer and additional study. By 8:40 a.m., I am on my way to greet church members and guests in an informal setting and by 9:00 a.m., I walk into a prayer room with several men who lay hands on me and pray for the service and me. By 9:10 a.m., I walk into our worship center, greet more people, and begin the worship experience. At the present time, I preach two services, one at our Springdale campus and another at our Pinnacle Hills campus. After the second service, Jeana and I greet people for at least 20 minutes, and we usually leave the campus around 1:00 p.m. I may have a luncheon, but whatever the schedule, I look forward to a brief nap in the afternoon.
Monday Morning through Thursday Morning
Again, the alarm goes off at 3:00 a.m. After water goes on my face and I grab a cup of strong coffee or green tea to help me start the day, I head to my home study. The first 90 minutes of my morning are spent in prayer and the Word devotionally. I reference a long prayer list on my iPad, which continually grows and is updated. I always end with my prayer journal, writing a prayer to God daily.
By 4:45 a.m., I am totally into my sermon preparation. I take this very seriously. For a pastor, there is nothing more important than developing your personal walk, followed by preparation to teach and preach the Word of God. From 4:45 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., with the exception of one hour for exercise and personal fitness, I am in study preparation. Sometimes I will respond to emails if it fits into the moment. If not, I wait. By 10:30 a.m., I am in the shower and by 11:30 a.m., I am on my way to a lunch meeting.
Friday and Saturday Morning
I usually sleep until 6:00 a.m. on Friday and on Saturday. If I am in a writing project, I may still get up at 3:00 a.m. I always begin my day with God for at least an hour. For years, my Friday priority has been Jeana and our family. It is the rare exception that Friday is spent in work and ministry tasks. On Saturday morning, I move into sermon preparation, mainly working on memorizing the sermon. I finish around 9:00 a.m. If it is college football season, I may adjust all this to be done in time for my favorite television program, ESPN's "College Game Day." If I need to rest more, I will watch the first hour of their broadcast that day by DVR.
Takeaway for Pastors Today: Give Your Mornings to God!
Giving your morning to God will transform your life and ministry. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing is more important than your own personal spiritual development and walk with God. It will transform your life and ministry. So pastors, devote yourself to a deep study time, giving yourself to prayer and the study of God's Word. You are called to lead, feed, and intercede for the people of God. Doing ministry in the power of God is imperative.
Consider this, pastor: How much more could you get done if you got up just one hour earlier for five mornings of the week? That would be five hours of additional time to deepen your walk with God, enhance your study time for sermon preparation, or practically deal with matters that are always hanging on you. God will use it in your life.
One more time as a testimony: Nothing has ascended my spiritual life and level of leadership more than this allocated time in the morning.