It has taken me longer to get around to this post than I had planned. Once my sabbatical ended I literally flew through the first week and a half. There are several things I have learned…HEre is the text of an arti cle I have submitted to the Northwest Baptist Witness for consideration and publication:
In June of 2010 I led our church to undergo a comprehensive consultation. It was an invigorating weekend. One of the primary recommendations made by the team was that I take a sabbatical. In October I presented the church my plan and January 2011 was set aside for my sabbatical.
At first the thought of four weeks of not preaching, not leading Monday and Wednesday Bible studies, not being engaged in the day to day lives of God’s people was overwhelming. What in the world was I going to do with my time? I had spent the last few years overcommitted and overscheduled. A few weeks of no commitments and no fixed points for which to prepare was beyond my ability to understand. Even on vacations and short trips away I was used to preparing for the next message series.
The first few days of my sabbatical were a struggle. I wanted to find a schedule, to fix some points along the way for which I had to prepare. But after the first several days I reveled in the idea of rest. I had been sensing for some time prior to January that I was nearly empty.
During the sabbatical I made plans to visit four churches, three in the Northwest and one in Texas. It was refreshing to visit these churches not as the guest of a family member as normally happens during vacation but as simply a worshiper. Of course I went with the intention of learning and observing how different groups of God’s people shared their common life together but the simple act of worship, the simple act of listening to a message to just be fed was absolutely refreshing.
The other primary activity I allowed to fill my time, besides watching some really good college basketball, was reading for both pleasure and for learning. I always have one or two books I am reading, but during my normal schedule they are usually books relating to my task as pastor or my leadership roles in the various community activities. During this month I read several novels- thank you Tom Clancy and Daniel Silva – as well as several books on leadership and strategic thinking. Perhaps the best reading I did was from my primary text, the Word of God. I was able during that month to re-establish a pattern of slowly reading God’s Word. Instead of reading to check off an activity on my to-do list I was able to read to get acquainted once again with God in His fullness.
There are several specific results that I can identify. First, as February rolled around I was more rested than I have been for several years. Second, I have been renewed in my hunger to know God, to lead people to know Him as I know Him. Third, God was able to refresh my vision for the days and years I may have left in active ministry. In short, my family, my church, and my community received a new me!