In the creation account, God gave Adam an assignment, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it,” (Gen 1:28). He put Adam in the garden of Eden “to tend and keep it,” (Gen 2:15). Work has value in both the physical realm and the spiritual realm. We understand the value of work because for much of human history that value has been assigned a wage. We know how valuable and necessary our work is. Paul even said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”
However, in our society where the workplace is competitive and wages are driven by market forces, it is easy to lose sight of something just as valuable, rest. Built into creation is a rhythm of work and rest. God established that rhythm with His own example (Gen 2:2). In a perfect world Adam was able to enjoy both, work and rest. After the fall, God built that rhythm into the law, but history has shown that humanity has struggled to enjoy either one.
We are familiar with the need for quick weekend getaways and vacations that may last anywhere from one to two weeks. Both are important for marriage and family health. But there is a term that we are not as familiar with, and that term is sabbatical. A sabbatical is an extended period of rest away from the routine of the normal work schedule. Professors are often granted sabbaticals away from the classroom in order to focus of research and writing. Pastors are gifted with sabbaticals, extended periods of rest, in order to shift their focus from the daily demands of the pastorate to find strength, renewal, and rest in Christ.
While the rhythm of work and rest is still in place, and our physical bodies need that rhythm, we know that we need more than just a day. We need Jesus. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I am grateful for my church family and our leadership for gifting me with a sabbatical so that I may enjoy for an extended period of time, the rest that Christ offers.
I was listening to a podcast and the host quoted General George Patton (and subsequently legendary football coach Vince Lombardi) as having said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The more I thought about it, the more I believe that to be true. When we occupy positions of leadership where tough decisions have to be made or as in the case of pastors, a caring position that calls us to carry with our church family the burdens that weigh heavily on their hearts, it can create a fatigue that distracts us from our task and may cause us to shirk our responsibilities. I don’t believe that I am fatigued to the extent that I have failed to make difficult decisions or partner with and pray for our families that are dealing with difficult circumstances. But I understand the potential for that kind of fatigue and again, I am grateful that our church would be proactive in keeping me from getting there. So, I want to use this time away to rest, reenergize, refocus, and reset, so that upon my return, I will be ready for the next fifteen years of ministry.
I want to share with you my plans for making the most of this time away. For those who do not know, Judy and I celebrated 15 years of service with Parkview Baptist Church in November of 2021. The church family blessed us with a month-long sabbatical (July 1-31, 2022) that includes a 12-day vacation on an Alaskan cruise. We are extremely grateful and humbled by the generosity of our church family. We plan to spend a few days with family in Spartanburg, SC before enjoying our time together in Alaska.
Throughout that time and then in a more concentrated way during the last two weeks of July, I plan to spend some time reading. My reading list includes Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth, Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne, and David McCullough’s 1776. I want to work on some potential bylaw changes for the church that will include a renewed emphasis on what it means for our church members to covenant together for the sake of the gospel and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
It has been difficult for me to wrap my mind around the idea of a sabbatical. When I am away for just one week, I feel disconnected from my church family and struggle to catch up with everyone. I can’t imagine what that will be like after being away for a month. I am praying that God will affirm His leadership of our church and that the success of our church does not depend entirely on me but on the faithfulness of our church members to live out the Great Commandment and accomplish the Great Commission.
I hope to understand more clearly and deeply that I am not the glue that holds this thing called Parkview together; it is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christ’s church to love one another well and to live in community in such a way that the kingdom is made more attractive than anything in this world. My prayer is that our church family will continue to be invested in the worship of Jesus and the work of His kingdom. I am grateful to a staff that leads well in my absence. The pastoral staff as well as our deacons will be available to serve the needs of our church family. I look forward to hearing the sermons that JonSeth (7/3 and 7/10) and Skylar (7/17) will preach. I look forward to reconnecting with some friends who were with me in my PhD program at Southern Seminary and hearing them preach, Aaron Meraz (7/24) and Jeff Walters (7/31).
You will notice in our summer programming that we are trying to prioritize the concept of rest among our church families, by prioritizing rest in our overall church schedule. For several years now, our choir has taken a break from rehearsals and Sunday anthems in the month of July. Our Next Gen ministries have changed up their programming in the summer time and now meet off campus on the Wednesdays during July in order to give our Next Gen volunteers some well-deserved rest. This year, we are extending that rest to our entire church family by taking a break from the Wednesday night midweek services. Throughout the month of July, the campus will be closed on Wednesday nights in order to provide a time of rest for the volunteers who make the Wednesday service possible such as tech crews and pre-school workers. We hope that when we start back for a “new season” of midweek services, that our church family will be well-rested and ready to worship corporately on Wednesday nights.
Judy and I love our church family. We will enjoy our time away and at the same time, miss you. We appreciate your prayers for us while we are away. Know that we will be praying for you.