The Balance of Study and Play

The Balance of Study and Play

A few years ago a veteran missionary in SVG encouraged me to create a “day off” during the week that didn’t involve any planned ministry.  To be honest I wasn’t a big fan of the idea (he knew I wouldn’t be).  However, Tuesdays (my official day off) have become one of my favorite ones since they beautifully illustrate a balanced ministry.

Often Tuesday involves running errands or going to Kingstown.  But when at home my day off revolves around the words “preparation” and “play”, both of which are EXTREMELY important to ministry

Days off are for Study: 

The Lord used the book “Preaching and Preachers” by Martin Lloyd-Jones in October to convict me about my lack of sermon preparation.  Bible Study software is an incredible blessing as it puts not only commentaries, but also the original language, illustrations, and different versions right at our fingertips.  It’s possible to do in a half-hour what would have taken at least twice that time before!

The danger is preachers can simply focus on the transfer of that information instead of heart change in the lives of people.  Jason Allen explains it this way in his recent article “What is a faithful preacher?

Preaching is more than a data dump. The central liability of many expositional sermons is just that. It is a rambling commentary that drops data on people, and preachers cannot figure out why people are getting bored. We are to present the text with force— probing, pushing, and prodding our listeners. It is more than transmitting what you read in the commentaries to your people that week. It is to take it and apply it with a “Thus sayeth the Lord” charge. Mark your life and set yourself to preach with courage.

Sadly the lives of missionaries of pastors are incredibly busy, leaving little time for application of the text, or sharpening the message itself.  There’s also the fact that study often feels less important than ministry activity which leads to something tangible.

This temptation and the busyness of life led me to set aside Tuesday mornings almost exclusively for study involving things like:

  1. Creation of a “skeleton outline” for sermons
  2. Reading Bible passages that will be used for future sermons
  3. Hand-writing sermon notes for that week
  4. Thinking through the flow of my messages verbally
  5. Theology reading
  6. And practicing the messages verbally

Normally that means my mind is exhausted by noon, but oepns

Days off are for Play:

The other side of that contrast is the idea of play which refers to “unplanned ministry that centers on fun.”  This can be things like:

  1. working on a hobby
  2. reading a book
  3. going for a long walk
  4. or watching a movie

For me, the play side of ministry is literally that as I interact with the children of Barrouaillie.  Last Tuesday afternoon I was able to:

  1. Help with math-homework
  2. Treat a burn wound
  3. Play ball with kids for over an hour