I recently talked to another pastor about the importance of good work habits that can be respected by working men and women in the congregation. He pointed out that some pastors do not keep regular office hours. He suggested that many are not very disciplined in their use of time.
I believe he may be correct in his general assessment of the situation, but I don't think the solution is to have the pastor in his office eight hours a day every weekday.
Who could argue with the proposition that pastors (and all people) should be disciplined and hard working? But sometimes I think pastors stay in their studies too much. They are more concerned about their IMAGE as hard workers, than with actually doing the hard work God has assigned to them.
The primary work of a pastor is the study of the word of God and prayer. My study can be a great place for this. I have a lot of resources for Bible study here, and most days I have a fair amount of peace and quiet for prayer. So hours in my study can be very profitable.
Staying in my study can also be easier than the work to which God has called me. In the office I can immerse myself in the study and reading that I genuinely enjoy, but I might be neglecting the aspects of ministry that pull me out of my comfort zone. My goal in study is not simply knowledge. A pastor is supposed to apply the word of God to people's lives through evangelism, preaching, teaching and counseling. While some of these things can be done to some extent from my study... most of them need to be addressed out in the community.
Preparing sermons and Bible lessons takes a significant amount of my time. I could give it ALL of my time. But there is a gap between the time that it really requires and all the time I could devote to it. Using more time than the work really requires is not diligence. It is wasteful self indulgence - and maybe avoidance of the more uncertain work of interpersonal interaction.
I am convinced I need to seek out opportunities to meet with people and eat with people out in the community for both evangelism and discipleship. I need to do what Jesus did... spend time with the disciples, speak to small groups and big groups, attend events that are important in people's lives and be available to talk to people who have questions.
Might I be criticized for not keeping 9-5 office hours? I'm sure I might. But even if I kept those hours, someone with a critical spirit would find other things to criticize. My main concern is to please my Lord. I had better be diligent to do what pleases Him, rather than fretting about what other people think of me.
Onward and forward! I have some calls to make.