I once heard of a preacher who was determined to work only 40 hours a week. So, he calculated how much time he spent in preparing sermons and classes, and how much time he spent in teaching and preaching those lessons. He subtracted that from 40 hours. Then, if he got called into a special meeting with the elders, if he got called to do counseling, if he got called upon to do a funeral, if he was invited to a church member’s wedding, he would add up all of those unexpected requirements of his time and subtract that from the 40 hours. He kept meticulous records of the time he spent “working” for the church—down the minute—and made every effort not to go over 40 hours each week. The average member was more likely to find this preacher sitting in front of the TV or out on the lake with a pole in his hand, than they were to find him doing the work of the church.
Of course, there must be balance. Preachers are not expected to kill themselves by working 100 hours a week, but when a preacher sees “his job” as a “40-hour work week,” and works diligently to ensure that he does not go over those 40 hours, that says a lot about him as a person. When God told preachers, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5), that is not a “job.” That is a “life.”
It might be easy for some of us to point a finger at a not-fully-committed preacher and chide him for his lack of diligent effort. But, could we as Christians find ourselves doing a similar thing? Some Christians have determined what their max effort and time can be for “being a Christian” each week and they rarely will go over that. For example, some have determined that going to worship once a month is enough and all they need to do. You won’t find them exceeding that self-imposed standard. Others, who might generally attend worship every Sunday, sometimes use other “church events” to replace Sunday worship time. For example, if there is a Saturday activity at the church, some Christians might decide that if they go to that event on Saturday that they don’t need to go to worship on Sunday. Or, if they take a widow to a doctor appointment and lunch on Tuesday that they don’t have to give to the church on Sunday.
Such a minimalist approach to Christianity is not what Jesus had in mind at all. He gave His all for us, looking for us to do the same in return. How painful it must be for Him to see us looking for ways to cut corners and do the least we can do, and yet still wear His name as “Christian.” When God told Christians, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…” (1 Cor. 15:58), that is not a “job,” to which we give minimal effort. That is a “life” that has great reward!