Beautiful skies have been hanging over Atlanta for about a week now. Prior to that were some rather wet and ugly days. I am unsure of where you are as you read these words but I am hoping you have been granted some days of relief and ease if you have spent any recent days underneath life’s rain-clouds. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a smile-because-everything-is-grrrrrreat preacher but I’m also not hardshelled to the point where I begrudge you your moment of exhaling. If you are thinking about what you can do this Summer to shape your life and put some bounce back into step then I’m going to direct you toward some thoughts below that I’m seeking to hold close for the next few months. It’s not that these commitments don’t work during the other three seasons of the year, it’s just that I personally believe that Summer affords a greater opportunity for me to clear my head, shut out intrusions and decide for myself how my days are going to be.
I am going to have a note for all who serve in vocational ministry in a moment but, before that, for all of who are reading today, consider the following: during your down time, your vacation, your weekends or your early mornings, place some thought on how you might grow in following areas:
- Cultivating your relationship with God – knowing Him, learning Him and hearing from Him is a spiritual process which has to be sought and received
- Cultivating your prayer life – a daily commitment, a special place, a consistent time, an objective prayer list, interceding for the needs of others
- Cultivate your ability to speak the Word of God – we don’t need professional more spokesmen, just more people with more care
- Cultivate your ability to listen – both to others and to the voice of God the Spirit. God will use His Word as His primary tool to communicate with you
- Cultivate your leisure time and rest – you heard me right! some of us are way too busy and need to rightfully conclude that the world will not skew its orbit if we take some downtime. You need it and you are a better disciple of Christ when you invest in your personal renewal and restoration.
For those of you in ministry or those of you served by Elders or Pastors in a church: you should strongly consider a short sabbatical from your work. It might be a week, two weeks or a month or longer if your church will provide for it.
What is a sabbatical and why should vocational ministers prioritize it?
- An on-purpose stepping away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily church life.
- It is engaging in a period of renewal and reflection – church leaders are more tired than they will admit to themselves or those whom they serve.
- It includes times for intentional exploration and reflection. If God’s servant is not growing personally neither will his ministry.
- It is for regaining enthusiasm and creativity for ministry. Tired minds produce dusty ideas. If the pastor is weary then his flock will be bored. I’m not talking about entertainment, I’m talking about knowing who you are leading and learning how to speak their language again.
- It involves any extended absence in the career. Extended is a relative term but a sabbatical is not a 3-day weekend. Pastors and churches should dialogue and discuss what amount of time is suitable at this season.
- It is to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or traveling extensively for research. When we aim for nothing we hit it every time. Day to day ministry leaves little time to think beyond the immediate. The Lord wants people who hunger for Him and the vision He has for their lives. Pastors are used to impart God’s vision but that pastor has lost his own vision…what then?
- It provides a chance to step out and step back from the pace and pressures of ministry.
- It is a season of personal renewal, study, and reflection without interruptions and obligations of a lesser nature.
- It helps pastors become renewed & strengthened so that their families remain strong or recapture lost strength
- It is complete freedom to do nothing. This is usually more of an issue with the pastors themselves than with the people they serve. Do nothing for a few weeks and see if God can make it without you.
- It is an extended period of time for renewal, enrichment, study, spiritual growth, travel, skill development, research, and experimentation.
- It is a time to dig deep wells in dry places and of course the water in all good wells is God Himself.
- It provides a clearer understanding of self as a follower of Jesus and as a servant among His people.
- It is a time away from distractions and pressures of ministry.
- It is a time to receive new directions and vision – God’s servant will be more valuable in his work when he is granted opportunity to rest from it for a period of time.
I’m grateful to be scheduled for my Summer vacation to begin in a few weeks with my family. At the end of those days with the three whom I love the most below, I will engage in a private, secluded time with the One whom I love above on a prayer retreat by myself. This is a huge time for me and I hope it will have powerful results in the work I do for Christ. You should consider exploring what you can for yourself in this area. You may not be a pastor needing a sabbatical but you are a human being with clear physical, mental and emotional limitations. Why deny this reality and pretend you don’t need a break? Come back stronger, more committed and refreshed for what lies ahead because those are the most important days in the rest of your life.
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