Why I am going on Sabbatical
I've been in ministry now for about 11 years. During that time, by the grace of God I've planted one church and led another through a restart, I've coached a dozen pastors, preached hundreds of messages, conducted weddings and funerals, some for elderly saints, some for unbelievers, and tragically some for those at the very dawn of their lives. I've laughed with folks, I've cried with folks, I've balanced budgets, purchased and overseen the renovation of an extension to our property, written a doctoral thesis and been privileged to lead people to Christ, baptize them and walk with them in discipleship. All the while I've tried to do this while balancing the holy task of being a husband and father and while battling a chronic health condition. Sometimes I have done well, sometimes not so well, but through it all, God has been faithful.
Through these years I've tried to guard a day of rest each week and I've tried to be intentional about taking vacations, but I've never had a Sabbatical before. I'm excited about it, but I'm also a little nervous. You see, I'm good at "going," but when it comes to "stopping," not so much!
As I prepare to embark on this journey for the next 3 months, I thought I would share just a few of the reasons why I'm taking this Sabbatical:
For rest and refreshment: The truth is I'm feeling tired. I love what God has called me to do. I can't imagine doing anything other than preaching His Word, but sometimes we need to take time to stop and sharpen the axe. So I'm not going to have any early morning meetings over the next 3 months. Some days I'll get up early sit on the porch and with a cup of coffee in one hand and a Bible in the other I'll wake the dawn with God. Other days, I'll sleep in until my children come and pull the covers off and start bouncing on my bed. I'll read the things that I've been wanting to read without having to think about what I'm teaching this week, and I'll trust God to teach me this thing that I have never been very good at, to rest.
To spend time with my family: I can count on one hand the number of times that our family has been to church together over the last 11 years. The rest of the time I arrive early and leave late while Lisa gets the kids ready and packs them up in the van to get them here on time for the service. It's going to be great (and kind of strange) to do this together this summer. I'm looking forward to not having to say, "Daddy's got a meeting tonight so I won't be home for dinner." I'm looking forward to reading bedtimes stories every night, to taking day trips and to making as many memories as I can.
For the sake of love: I wish it wasn't the case, but it is - the hurts, the issues, the hospital visits some times leave me a little desensitized. I want to love, I want to extend compassion but it isn't always easy. Ultimately in this like every other area of ministry I try to rely on the Spirit God but I'll confess this has been getting harder to do in recent months. So I'm taking Sabbatical to allow God to recharge my compassion quota.
For the good of the church: I serve an amazing church! We have great elders and an incredible staff team that I count it an honor to work with. This Sabbatical is going to be a blessing to our church. It's going to allow our staff and elders to grow in some areas that they just couldn't do with me around. It's going to allow the congregation to hear from people that they don't usually get to hear from (in addition to our Pastoral team and Elders we have some great guest speakers coming in). And it's going to be a healthy reminder that the work of the gospel, the ministry of the church is not dependent upon Pastor Tim (not exactly a startling revelation!!).
For the longevity of ministry: I just turned 37, which means that if the Lord should tarry and if He should choose to grant me breath, I may still have a lot of years ahead of me. Studies show an almost impossibly startling statistic, that 1,700 Pastors leave the ministry every month (source: churchleaders.com). I don't want to be a statistic, I don't want to burn out and I don't want to disqualify myself. Instead I want to do everything possible to make sure that I am still faithfully and fruitfully discharging the ministry I have been called to on that day when Jesus returns or calls me home. So I'm going to take a pit-stop for the next three months to get ready for next part of the race.
On a final note, people have been asking me, "So, are you coming back?" I do not take for granted the fact that our Elders are graciously extending this Sabbatical to me. Sadly many churches do not make Sabbaticals available to their Pastor (shame on you!). I think it is only right and appropriate that after granting me this time that The Orchard Church should get to share in the blessings that will come from this. So yes, I intend to be back in August, and I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for the next season.
For now, beginning May 9 please excuse the "out of the office" reply that my email will kick back to you - but the Pastor has left the building (and that's a good thing)!
Picture is of St Ives Bay, Cornwall, England near where I grew up and where we will be spending a portion of my Sabbatical.