The Pastor and His Schedule

No matter where you serve the Lord, whether in a city or rural setting, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the many responsibilities that are required of a minister. For 12 of my 17 years as the pastor of a small church in an urban inner-city area of Los Angeles, I juggled two sets of responsibilites—leading our church in many of the main teaching responsibilities, which consisted of preaching for about 45 minutes three times a week from three different books of the Bible, along with men’s discipleship, and counseling. There were, of course, many other responsibilities which we could sprinkle in along with those, but those took up major chunks of my time.

Additionally, I taught pastoral ministry courses at a nearby seminary twice a week during the regular semesters. Because of Los Angeles traffic and the distance to the seminary, I would spend about 4 hours each day on congested freeways as I travelled to and from the school. That meant that on the days that I taught, I would spend most of my days either commuting to and from the seminary as well as teaching. When I returned I would most often drive straight to my office at church and pick up my duties there.

These two worlds, church pastor and seminary professor, required that I have a very good grasp of time management and discipline or else I knew that all those involved—my wife and children, my church, and my students—would suffer and I would not be able to faithfully discharge my duties.

Because of this, I understand the time constraints that are placed upon any servant of God as they seek to make the best use of their time to bring glory to God. To help those that might be working at doing this very thing, I’d like to share with you how I did this, even thought it was imperfect, in hopes that you might benefit from the lessons I learned.

I remember reading several years ago in a book by the famous productiviy guru Stephen Covey, the illustration of the big rocks and little rocks. It helped me to see the importance of prioritizing the big responsibilities in my life and ministries, and was a help in looking at the big picture.

In this illustration, Covey says he invited a seminar attendee to the front of the room to a table with a glass jar and several bowls with rocks, pea gravel, sand, and a glass of water. He asked the woman if she thought she could fit everything on the table into the jar. She said she’d try and made a few attempts, trying to put the sand and gravel in first. By doing this she found that the larger rocks wouldn’t fit. After a few more attempts she said that she didn’t think it was possible. Covey thanked her and then proceeded to take an empty jar and added in each element one at a time. He started with the larger rocks, then added the pea gravel, shaking the jar to settle in the gravel as much as possible. Then he added the sand. At each step he asked the women who had failed if she thought the jar was full. At first she said it was, then as she caught on, she answered that somehow she knew more would fit in. After the gravel and the sand, Covey once again shook the jar so the sand filled in all the spaces between the large rocks and the gravel. Finally, Covey added the water, which filled the microscopic spaces between the grains of sand, assuring his audience that the jar was now truly full.

Covey used this illustration to show that unless the large rocks, which represent the important things in our lives, are put into place first, we will never accomplish what matters most. And when what matters most is our families and our ministry to the Lord, we want to make sure that these things are placed in the most important place of priority in our life and limited time. The other stuff, the small stuff, can be added afterwards if we so desire.

So, for me, I set up a general day by day schedule that looked like this:

Mondays—Family Day. This was time that unless absolutely necessary due to a real emergency, I did not work or neglect the family. These focused days were filled with great joy and helped me to relax and spend time with my wife and children. I understood that if I lost my family, I lost my ministry.

Tuesdays—Seminary teaching in the day, church administration and counseling appointments in afternoons and the evenings.

Wednesday-Study and sermon preparation for Wednesday night, and teaching in the evenings.

Thursday– Seminary teaching in the day, study and sermon preparation for Sunday mornings.

Friday-Continue study and sermon prep for Sunday morning if not finished, study and sermon prep for Sunday evenings.

Saturday-Men’s Bible study and/or evangelism; finish sermon prep for Sunday nights if not done.

Sunday-Worship in the morning and evening, monthly leadership training and board meetings in between services.

This was my regular “big picture” schedule for most of my 17 years as pastor of my church. When the seminary had a break, then usually my involvement at church increased and I was able to divert my attention to other necessary needs at church.

And although I can’t say that I never struggled with being exhausted at times, or having too much on my plate, my schedule helped me to fit the big things into my days, and then the smaller “pebbles, and sand,” like phone calls, visitation to homes and hospitals, and pop-in-visits, fit in without losing sight of the important responsibilities that needed to happen.

Most people within your church will never have any idea how many hours and how much time you put into serving them—and that’s as it should be. We are servants after all. But the Lord knows, and we will all have to give an account for how we spent our time as ministers of the gospel. So, if you are a pastor of a church, take that seriously. The pastorate is no place for lazy men.

IFCA Convention Messages and a Summer Break

Drs. Mike Vlach, Tommy Ice, Larry Pettegrew, and me. It looks like we were lined up according to height.😂

Today I am at Twin Peaks Bible Camp in Colorado (twinpeaksbiblecamp.org) teaching at their High School camp for the week. With no wifi or even cell phone service, I am completely unplugging for the week. Then for the next two weeks I’m going to be enjoying some much needed rest with my family as we camp in beautiful Michigan. That means that I won’t be posting anything new here for a little more than three weeks. If you want to know when I start writing again, I’d recommend that you subscribe to this blog and an email will be sent to you when new posts are uploaded.

To keep you occupied until I get back, we have uploaded the audio and video files of our General Sessions from the 2021 IFCA Annual Convention to our Sermon page (https://www.ifca.org/page/sermons). These include the messages from me, Mike Vlach, Tommy Ice, and Larry Pettegrew. You can also find the two panel discussions: On Social Justice and Race, and On Eschatology, also on the IFCA sermons page. Next week our staff will begin uploading the seminar audio from the convention as well and you will be able to listen to those from the same page.

As an additional treat, you can now freely read and download the VOICE magazine issue where we address Social Justice/CRT from a biblical perspective. It has been our most popular issue to date. Feel free to share it, and if you’d like contact our office to purchase physical copies. The digital magazine can be read here: https://www.ifca.org/file/2ef529c0-e970-11eb-9a41-239c885721a6

Looking forward to posting new content in mid-August!

Help for New Pastors-Planning a Funeral

Although there isn’t a substitute for actually conducting a funeral yourself, it is possible to be better prepared to have those conversations that will make for a better memorial and graveside service. Like many things in pastoral ministry, after struggling to figure out how to do something as a new pastor, I figured out a way that worked for me and then standardized a format that made my “system” repeatable.

After being contacted by a church member or someone who has lost a loved one, it is best to set a day and time as soon as possible to meet together to talk about planning their service(s). Because most people have been to a funeral, we can assume that they might have some idea about how they would want the service of their loved one to be ordered. That assumption is almost 99% incorrect. Most people have no idea how a service should be ordered, what elements they might want to include, who they want to speak, or even how long they want the service to be.

We obviously think about the need for comfort as a part of ministering to those who are mourning, but part of bringing comfort is helping the loved ones walk through a very confusing and difficult time by leading and guiding them through a very scary and unfamiliar process.

I developed my Funeral Service Planner as a way of walking through the typical services that people desire for a funeral, including a viewing/wake, memorial service, and graveside service. I not only ask about the particular elements that the family might want, but I also mark the order of each element in the service as well as which family members will be involved. The lines to the right are for names of those involved, including the pastor, if desired. The short lines to the left of service elements are to place a number for the order of the element when it will occur in the service.

Viewings or wakes are normally connected to Roman Catholicism, but sometimes they are conducted by a family of different faiths. If no priest will be present, then a Protestant pastor might be looked at as one who should do something. If this is the case, you might want to choose some passages of Scripture to read and pray. The rest of the time can be left for family to mourn together and if the casket is open, for them to say their goodbyes.

The last element, “full burial” follows the graveside service. Some families opt to wait until the casket is lowered and the vault (a concrete protective box) is placed over the casket, and then the whole thing is covered by dirt. In many funeral services, this is done for an extra fee and must be pre-arranged. If this occurs, it extends the time at the cemetery, and can be somewhat traumatic for the family to watch because it involves heavy machinery pounding down the ground to compact the soil. It would be best to know this so the family will be aware of the extra cost and what happens.

My form looks like this:


Funeral Service Planner

Decedent’s Full Name:__________________________________ Age:______ Saved? ____

Viewing/ Wake? Date, Time and Location: ______________________________________

Officiating? ____________________________________ Scripture Reading ____________________________________

Prayer ____________________________________

Other elements? ____________________________________

Memorial Service Date, Time and Location:_________________________________________

Suggested Order of Service (Length of Service? _________)

Welcome _________________________

Opening Prayer
___Scripture Reading _________________________
___Eulogy- Writing _____________________ Reading _________________________

___Video Presentation/Slideshow (How long? ________)

___Family and Friends Memories (Prepared or open? _________ How many?____ )

___Prayer
___Gospel Message

Closing Prayer

Other elements?

Special music? _________________________

Other minister co-officiating? __________________________

Graveside Service? Date, Time and Location: ____________________________________

Scripture Reading (Jn 11:25; Ps 103)

Words of Interment
Prayer

Other elements? ____________________________________

Full burial?

Contact info: Pastor Richard Bargas Office: (XXX) XXX-XXXX
Email: XXXXXX@gmail.com


When I fill out the above form, I make sure to include as many details as possible. Some things, like particular family involvement, will sometimes be confirmed at a later date. After I have sat and walked through this process with the family, I will usually either photocopy or email a copy of the completed form to the family so they can know the order of the services and who is doing what. This is especially helpful the next day when they have a hard time remembering the meeting details because of their grief.

Normally, people are so overwhelmed with stress and the emotion of the day that they will need to be guided through each service element during the funeral, but it is good and comforting for them to know that you are in charge and know what is happening. I have included at the bottom of my form my church office number and my email in case they needed to get ahold of me, since I sometimes conducted funerals for friends of friends.

One last thing. There is a place in my form for a gospel message in the service. For me, this is a non-negotiable element. I won’t do a funeral if I’m not allowed to freely share the gospel, and I normally only take about 15 minutes to do so. I once had a person say they didn’t want me preaching at their guests. I replied that as a minister of the gospel I don’t know of any other hope to give to people than the hope of salvation in Christ. If they didn’t want this hope presented, then they didn’t want me to conduct the service. I spoke with a gentle but firm resolve. The widow took a second to think about what I said and then agreed that she did want this and asked me to do the service. She even thanked me after the service for the great comfort the Word of God brought. Fellow pastors, don’t fail to point the grieving to Christ, our only hope!

Below you can download a PDF copy of my form. Be aware that the contact info at the bottom of the form is no longer valid for me, so please don’t try to contact me at the phone number or email address.

The Lord’s Provision for Ministry (part 1)

It’s hard to imagine the hardships that the Apostle Paul must have faced at times. Having travelled so far away from family and that which was familiar would be enough to cause most people to struggle. Add to that the immense physical strain in travelling by foot, having poor accommodations and little to eat at times. We could understand if Paul and his teammates grew weary. The beatings and imprisonments compounded and heightened the suffering he endured for the sake of Christ.

As Paul wandered about in Athens (Acts 17), he was all alone. His travelling companions would catch up with him later, but for now he walked the streets and engaged people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. As he moved about the city, his heart was provoked by the widespread idolatry, and as he left Athens his ministry did not show as much fruit as he hoped. How did Paul continue for so long without being burned out and frustrated?

A Lifeway Research Survey completed in 2015 states conservatively that the number of men leaving the ministry are about 250 per month. Some statistics are as high as 1,700 a month.  The reasons given in the Lifeway survey would have been understood by the Apostle Paul and experienced by him in some form:

  • 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
  • 80 percent expect conflict in their church.
  • 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
  • 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
  • 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
  • 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them. [1]

So, it is fair to ask ourselves once again, how could Paul continue so faithfully in the ministry under such difficult circumstances? This isn’t just important for those in ministry to know, but everyone in the Body of Christ as well. We are all called as ministers of the New Covenant. You may not preach a sermon every Sunday, but you might teach Sunday school, or AWANA or lead a weekly Bible study. All of Christ’s disciples are called, even if not vocationally, to minister to one another and to carry the gospel to the world. In this series of posts I’d like to examine six ways which the Lord provides for His servants. The first way he provides is…

He Gives Us Ministry Co-workers 

After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them,” (Acts 18:1–2, NASB95) 

But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:5, NASB95)

Leaving Athens, Paul was still all alone. Back in Acts 17:13-15 the missionary team was broken up in order to get Paul out of the area because of the physical danger he was in from the angry Jewish leaders who were stirring up riots in Berea. Paul went to Athens alone and then travelled to Corinth, a little over 50 miles away. If Athens was noted for its philosophical and religious nature, Corinth was known for its sensual attractions. The city was one of the largest and most prominent ports in the ancient world and it was a melting pot of money, religions and fleshly sin, much like Los Angeles and New York City.

The need was great in Corinth for the gospel. As Paul came to this great ministry opportunity, the Lord provided for him ministry partners named Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple. Aquila, whose name was Latin for “eagle,” was originally from the Roman province of Pontus, near the Black Sea in what is now called Turkey. Aquila and Priscilla had been living in Rome but had been commanded to leave along with all other Jews. This was because of a command in 49 A.D. from Emperor Claudius.

Along with this couple, the Lord brought back Silas and Timothy from Macedonia (v. 5). When they found Paul, he was busy faithfully proclaiming the gospel in the synagogue. Paul now had a full team that joined him in preaching and discipling those that came to Christ. Even as gifted as the Apostle Paul was, he needed the help of co-workers to be able to faithfully carry out the mission he had received from Christ. 

This reminds me that when the Lord Jesus sent out his disciples, he sent them out in groups of at least two, sometimes more. I don’t think this is a command, but it is good wisdom.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NASB95)  

Think about those in your church. These are your ministry partners and co-workers for the gospel ministry. We should be working together, encouraging one another, stirring one another up to love and good deeds. We should be making incursions into enemy territory in teams.

If you’re not doing anything, that means that you aren’t just disobeying the Lord in not serving, but you are not being a co-worker for someone else. Others are needing to carry on without you! Get in the game! The team needs you!

Four Critical Ways Every Husband Needs to Love His Wife

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:25–33, ESV)

With A Sacrificial Love (Ephesians 5:25)

“Just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself up for her”

Sacrificial love was demonstrated on the cross. Christ died for unlovable sinners while we were in the mire of our sins and enemies with God. Romans 5:7-8 says, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare to even die. But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Husband, this means that you are commanded to love your wife sacrificially even when you think that she is unworthy of such radical love.

Sacrificial love is a willingness to serve others. Christ demonstrated a servant’s attitude that was willing to give himself completely and totally to demonstrate his love. We can sometimes believe that we would be willing to give our lives for our wives, yet we fail in the everyday duties of serving our wife and family as Christ did. John 13:14 reminds us of the words of Christ, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” This further illustrates Paul’s point of mutual submission in Ephesians 5:21. In Philippians 2:7 we see our Savior himself setting the example for us, he who…“emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Sacrificial love is a willingness to lay down you own life for another. First John 3:16 describes love not in romantic terms, but in radical sacrifice. It says, “We know love by this, that He laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

With A Purifying Love (Ephesians 5:26-27)

Purifying love desires the best for the wife and wants to see her pure and undefiled. Husbands who discourage their wives in Bible reading, church attendance, serving in ministry, going to church functions where she can be edified and grow in Christ are undercutting this type of love. Husbands who encourage their wives to get involved in sin to allay their own guilt are also guilty of pulling down their house with their own hands. They are like those described in Romans 1:32 “they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

Purifying love is exemplified in:

  • Husbands who are the spiritual leaders in their homes. (Eph. 5:23; 1Cor. 11:3; 14:35)
  • The husband leads by example-He is a godly man growing in maturity and obedience. 
  • Time spent in the word and prayer as a family (Eph. 6:4)
  • Time together at church worshipping together (Heb. 10:25; Deut 6:7)
  • Encouraging involvement in ministry and other activities
  • Confronting and confessing sin in loving and biblical manner (James 5:16)

With A Caring Love (Ephesians 5:28-30)

This is a love that not only sacrifices and purifies, but nurtures and embraces. Does this passage teach that we need to love ourselves before we can love others? No. It says we already love ourselves. Those who claim to hate themselves really don’t.

  • We feed ourselves.
  • We clothe ourselves.
  • We clean our bodies.
  • We avoid pain and abuse.
  • We protect ourselves from danger.
  • We give ourselves shelter from the elements

Nurturing can include providing in many ways:

  • Providing for the family by working hard at your job.
  • Providing housing, food and clothing (physical needs).
  • Providing security and protection.
  • Providing love and affection.
  • Providing attention and shared experiences.

With An Unbreakable Love (Ephesians 5:31-33)

  • A love that no man or woman can separate. This means, husbands that are still hanging on to their mama’s apron need to cut the strings. Wives that are still “Daddy’s girl” need to cling to their husband instead.
  • You need to cling to one another in the storms of life understanding that divorce is not an option. If you leave even the option of divorce as a possibility, that crack will widen when difficult times come.
  • Separation should be as impossible as Christ separating from His Church-Rom 8:38, 39.