“But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.”- Leviticus 25:4-5
Have you ever found a time where God was trying to get your attention on something that wasn’t high on your priority list? Too often, we ignore God’s necessary and beneficial instructions to us as we are constantly inundated by the pressures, schedules, responsibilities, and personal pursuits of life. Well, last fall the Lord used a culmination of events and handful of conversations to lead us into a life-giving, faith-refining, and fruit-yielding decision for the upcoming summer season. In talking to several pastor friends/peers, I began to hear of their recent experience of taking a sabbatical. Each one, as if in harmony, stressed the greater refreshing they experienced, the greater connection they had with their families, and the greater joy and focus they had returning to their roles as pastors.
After hearing these reports, taking time to reflect on the last season, praying with others, and submitting this request to the church council and our district supervisor, Joanie and I will be taking a sabbatical this summer to experience a season of personal refreshing, spiritual renewing and ministerial refocusing. We will enter a full sabbatical rest from June 11-August 5 and then have four additional weeks (August 6-September 2) of reintegration into the church ministry to better prepare for the fall season and beyond (less office hours and no Sunday preaching). As we made this announcement last Sunday I cannot express enough the gratitude Joanie and I have for your loving response and prayerful support. Whether you were present last Sunday or are hearing this news for the first time reading this, I would like to expand on what was shared.
WHAT IS A SABBATICAL:
A sabbatical is not a vacation. It is not just about being off work or going on a bunch of outings/trips. A sabbatical is a longer period of time to stop, rest, and delight in intentional times with the family, and in our faith as children of God. Ultimately, it is an extended version of the Sabbath Day command, where we are to take one day each week to rest and reflect on the goodness and holiness of God (Exodus 20:8-10).
WHY IS A SABBATICAL RIGHT FOR THIS SUMMER:
The above passage in Leviticus speaks of the need for even the land to have rest every seven years. The land was a place of purposeful labor, sowing and reaping. There was great focus, fervor, and fruitfulness from this labor. As pastors we feel that same sense of passion and purpose in serving our awesome God and this amazing church family. Our heart is to give our all and our best. It is truly a labor of love and a labor unlike any other. As we look back on the last year we have had some monumental moments. Just in 2017 alone we:
1. Concluded ten years as the pastors at Shepherd’s House
2. Moved the church into our new property
3. Walked through a lengthy battle of illness with our daughter (five weeks in the hospital)
All those things made it impossible to take this kind of break last year but made it even more imperative to do so in 2018. This year our oldest son graduates high-school this June, and we recognized how important this season is to our family.
WHAT WILL WE BE DOING ON SABBATICAL:
This time will be about refreshing and renewing. There will be times to rest, to enjoy trips and to be with our family. It will also be a time to connect with God in ways that are intentional and meaningful. From extended quiet times, to journaling, to reading books, we want to make room for the Holy Spirit to prune and grow us so that we return to you as even better followers of Jesus, stronger leaders, and healthier people in every facet of life.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO CHURCH DURING THIS TIME:
We are certain that for some, your past experience has you feeling that a “sabbatical” means the leader is either being removed or looking to make a change. I want to assure that this is not the case and we do not plan on being anywhere other than pastors of the Shepherd’s House. We desire to be in this for the long haul! From council meetings to focused times with our pastors/staff to receiving direction from our district office and mentors, we have spent the last handful of weeks praying and preparing for this time. Even with our being away, the church will continue to move forward, to stay focused on God’s kingdom, and be fruitful in doing faith and life in unity and on mission. Our church council and pastoral team will continue to serve the church in leading Sunday services, oversee daily operations, and care for needs within the church family. On Sunday, June 10th we will be having a special time to pray for our sabbatical and our leadership team so that the church family can see who is “doing what” and who is here “for you”.
I assure you that there will be more to share in the coming weeks. Thank you for understanding that your pastors are “God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9) who needs to be tended by His care, that Jesus is the head of the Church (1 Peter 5:4) who always leads us, and that each of us are laborers for His kingdom (Matthew 9:36). We know that the Lord getting our attention for this appointed time will release amazing results for our church family.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness to lead us through this season and for preparing us for what is to come! In Your Name and for Your glory, Amen!