I have been given the gift of a pastoral sabbatical this summer. This is a gift that comes round every seven years for full-time employees at New Life Church. Since I have been on staff for 16 years, this will actually be my second sabbatical, for which I am extremely grateful. The last one came as I was making the transition from worship/pastotal ministry to preaching/teaching/pastoral ministry. My sabbatical will last a little over six weeks.
What is a sabbatical? It’s a good question, not least because ‘sabbath’ is a lost practice in our day. We all get vacations, and ‘time off’, but a sabbath is something altogether different. Sabbath is a time to stop, to rest, to delight, to play, and to be renewed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
A sabbatical is meant to be an extended sabbath. Some have asked if I am taking this time to focus on my doctoral work, or to write. The answer is, no. Though I may continue in my reading and writing, the point is to let it be an extended sabbath—holy space to rest and be renewed.
For pastors, the practice of a sabbatical becomes particularly important because of the role we carry in the church. The weight of spiritual leadership is hard to explain or quantify, and yet it can take a very tangible toll on a leader’s soul. Many leaders don’t stop because they don’t feel that they can or that they should. At New Life, we believe that if Jesus went away to pray in silence and solitude, even when the crowds were pressing in, that pastors should too. A once-in-seven-years sabbatical is no substitute for regular rhythms of rest and renewal. And yet, once in seven years, something extra, something longer, something special is given as a gift…the gift of time, the gift of rest, the gift of reflection and renewal while being away. And for this gift, I am grateful.
So, what will we do on my sabbatical?
Holly and I have shaped our sabbatical with three broad aims: rest, recreation, and renewal. Though our time will not necessarily follow this sequence, we have intentionally crafted the weeks to make space for each of these things to take place. There will be times for just Holly and I to be together, there will be fun memory-making activities and adventures with the kids, and there will be cherished time with family and friends.
Every sabbath, in its essence, includes a ceasing—things you will not do—and a delighting—things you will intentionally do. For our sabbatical, the things I will deliberately cease from are:
- Facebook (checking and posting)
- Twitter (checking and posting)
- Instagram (checking and posting)
- My phone! (I will use a completely different phone and phone number!)
- Content-creation (no sermon writing, blogging, etc)
The things I will intentionally delight in are:
- Fiction reading: (I’m 300 pages into The Count of Monte Cristo)
- Non-fiction theology reading
- A marriage book
- The Olympics, various soccer tournaments, Broncos mini-camp happenings, and more!
What about New Life Downtown?
Glad you asked. We have such an amazing team! And, we are grateful for incredible friends and partners in ministry. Pastor Evan and Pastor Joey will lead our staff, our team and our services during the six Sundays that I will be out. As for preaching…My dear friend, Jeremiah Parks who leads an amazing ministry called Heartwork, will be preaching on June 19th, wrapping up our series on emotions and relationships with a talk on emotional healing through forgiveness. Then, on June 26th, the amazing Pete Greig from England is going to preach. Pete is the leader of the incredible 24/7 prayer movement, which has had some incredible stories recently that I can’t wait for you all to hear. Then, for the first four Sundays of July, our beloved pastors Evan and Joey will be teaming up to preaching a four-week series on the Kingdom of God.
Sunday, June 12th, will be my last Sunday before the sabbatical. Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would surprise us with joy in beautiful ways, and that our hearts would be drawn closer to Him and to one another as a family during this time.
I love you all and will miss you dearly. See you on July 31st!