I’m unplugging for a while. After 17 years of ministry, my congregation has given me a three month sabbatical. I won’t respond to calls, texts, or emails. Don’t take it personally. Sabbath means “to cease/stop,” and so I’ll be doing just that. Here are a few things I’ll devote myself to.
Listen, Not Speak
I speak for a living. Sermons, writing, messages, meetings, counseling. Words are the tools of my trade; God’s word is the source. I’m always “on,” and expected to say something.
Sabbatical will be a time when I listen, and not speak. Receive and not produce. Learn and not teach.
Restore My Soul
I believe life is more spiritual than we know. Science and medicine are good, but we often deny the mystery of the soul. I see soul work up close. I experience the best and worst of people’s lives. This comes with cumulative stress and trauma. Death and darkness are sticky and have a way of weighing on our spirits. We can’t explain it intellectually or physically, but we know it’s there. So I’m praying the words of Psalm 23:3, “Restore my soul.”
Give Family Time Back
My oldest child is officially a senior. “It goes by so fast,” they said. “Oh, sure,” I said. OK, “they” were right. A pastor works intimately in two areas: God’s Word and the lives of a local community. Being in the lives of people often means I’m gone 3-4 nights a week, working on weekends, and absent on holidays. So, it’s time to give some time back to my bride and my kids.
A wise man told me, “Give your kids experiences that make memories that pass on your values.” So we’re going to adventure out West this summer, get on each other's nerves, laugh, and make memories.
Model Healthy Rest
Spiritual stress shows up in physical maladies. I’ve observed pastoral peers who are physically and mentally unhealthy. I feel the tension too. We live in an age of digital intrusion, distraction, hurry, and worry. We live at an un-human pace. Pastors are tempted to keep up with world’s speed. We need to be better at modeling health for our people.
Curb My Obsessive Side
I tend to overwork. I have a hard time saying “no.” In the best sense, I’m hard working and committed. But in the worst sense, it borders on compulsiveness. Eugene Peterson called it “a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”
I’m going to work on being unproductive for a season. Our world is on a nauseous carousel of “hurry and worry.” We endlessly achieve, accomplish, and accumulate. The practice of sabbath is proof that God is in control, not me. When I stop working, I see that God can do his work without me. This is humbling and healthy.
Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength . . . It is wisdom to take furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by doing less.”
Rest So I can Work
Being a pastor is not a job for me. It is a divine calling. I don't want to be the kind of pastor who goes through the motions. If I ever turn into a religious mercenary, spitting out pious clichés, I quit.
I actually believe what I preach. The darkness is real. Life is fragile. God is orchestrating a divine rescue plan. A dead man came back to life. The Crucified One is the world-wide King. Jesus is everything.
I’m eager to sit at his feet so that I can get back on my own. I'll return mid-August. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll see you soon.