Sabbatical

This Sunday after gathered worship, we want to invite you to join us for a family meeting. While we will talk through two or three important topics, one of our main goals is to provide a time to talk about sabbatical. Hopefully you have had time to talk to me or to one of the other elders to get answers to your questions – we welcome that. Sunday gives us another chance to clarify, share and rejoice together.

Both Joel and I have taken time to share about my upcoming sabbatical, but I’m sure some of you weren’t able to be there – this is an attempt to synthesize some of the key ideas.

First, let me simply say that rest and renewal are prominent biblical themes. From the first account of creation in Genesis, to the Ten Commandments in Exodus, throughout the commands given to the people of God, as well as their example, rest is a rhythm. The same God who designed an order of day and night, Sabbath and work, winter and summer, created a need inside of us to work hard then take time to rest. We want to transcend the broken time of Western culture, and help God’s people close in on His tempo. Not just for me, but for Sunday school teachers and nursery workers – rest and renewal is important.

Next, let me also point out that biblical rest does not mean giving up work. Hebrews 4 draws this together most concisely – rest is not simply ceasing from labor, it is walking with God. Rest for the Children of Israel led them into a promised land filled with walled cities and fierce foes. We will not ultimately rest until Jesus comes again – but even then, heaven is not a place of pool-lounging and seashell collecting. As it was in the garden, we will work to the glory of God and the good of others, without the futility of thorns and thistles.

With these two thoughts in mind, my sabbatical has a dual focus. First, it needs to be a time to care for my soul. Second, it needs to serve others by preparing me to serve here better.

  • After twenty years of full-time ministry, I admit that I am worn. That does not mean that I want to leave ministry or Windham Baptist Church – not at all. But the weight of caring for people’s souls, discipling, organizing, preaching, helping the flock here finds me tired. I love this faith family, and believe that this time will free me to serve with more passion and energy.
  • I feel like I am in constant growth, which is good. I learn and lean on Jesus daily – just to continue following him on his mission. But I realize that I am weak in the area of discipling adults. Much of my time in ministry has focused on equipping adolescents, and now I need some concentrated time to sharpen my skills and strategy for working with my peers.

Therefore, the three months from mid-July to mid-October would be spent pursuing two learning experiences. One will focus on spiritual formation: allowing others to care for my soul through reading and meeting and rest. It can be hard for a pastor to allow others to care for his soul, but I know I need it. I will work with some pastors from our region (especially the pastors of WBC) to encourage healing and long-term health.

The second focus will be a skill formation: reading and meeting with others who can help me be better prepared to help you. The goal is to identify areas of conviction, character, and competence our developing adult leaders will need, then work to find and create resources and practices designed to aid in their growth.

Along with these two main goals, I expect a few other benefits:

  • This is a critical season for ministry to my wife and children. I know that you find them precious and would never be willing to allow them to be sacrificed for the ministry.
  • The new friendships forged during this time will benefit all of us. The passing of Dr. Bob Frederich has left a mentoring void, and I trust God desires to bless us with more men like him.
  • I can’t wait to see how you bless each other! I do not expect the ministry of WBC to wilt during this time, just the opposite! I think we will all be encouraged to realize that this church is not made or determined by my skills – Jesus is working here! (That is a key realization of rest – knowing that God is in control when I am not).
  • Many of the pastors we have talked with have said they returned with a renewed sense of joy and passion for ministry.
  • You will be blessed for giving. I realize that there are some who not get to experience a sabbatical of this style, but you have a chance to bless generously – to give what you have not been given. In joyfully doing so, you reflect the character of God and resemble him, freely giving much to those who do not deserve.

I love you and appreciate the constant flow of encouragement and support that you have spoken to me about this time.

Pastor Mark

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One response to this post.

  1. […] of the goals of this sabbatical season is to keep the channels of communication open, so here is an update on where we’ve been and […]

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