Coming Off Sabbatical
THIS PAST MONDAY, I was back in the office after a one month sabbatical. Here are a few things I am “feeling” as I come off sabbatical.
First of all, I am really grateful to be part of a church family who values me and my need for rest. According to our church policy on sabbaticals, rest is the primary stated purpose for this time away. I can’t tell you how freeing and life-giving that is to me. Thank you for your prayers for me while I was gone.
During this time, Bonnie and I were able to get away on several occasions. We were able to have meaningful connection with our adult children and we were also able to visit with my parents.
There is also a “spiritual resting” that takes place during this time of physical rest that I find to be refreshing and nourishing. Because I was not pressed for time, I found myself able to linger more in God’s Word and in my prayer time. It gives me an opportunity to address the needs of my heart so that I am better prepared to care for you.
I am also keenly aware of the extra burden my absence puts on others, especially our ministry staff. So I am thankful to them for picking up extra responsibilities while I was gone. They did a great job!
I am also feeling tender towards you, the people of WEFC. Let me explain what I mean.
I read three books while on sabbatical. One of the books I read was written by Eugene Peterson. He is most known for his contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message. He is now in his eighties and he recently wrote a book reflecting back on his life as a pastor. It is simply titled, The Pastor: A Memoir.
In this book, he tells his life story and he reflects back on his years as a pastor. He talks about the high points and the low points and the lessons he learned over the years. It was like he was sitting down with me and helping me think through my role as a pastor.
Among the many gems I gleaned from his wise counsel was the reminder of how I am to view the people I serve – that is you! Among other things, a pastor is a leader. Often the temptation that comes with leadership is the temptation to view people as “a cause” or even a means to a desired end. I found myself needing to repent of this attitude.
Peterson reminded me that my responsibility is first of all “to know you.” It is to love you. He said, “I see myself assigned to give witness to the sheer livability to the Christian life, that everything Scripture says is here to be lived. It is a long obedience in the same direction.” He said that in order to be an example to the flock, the pastor must not view people as “a cause”, but rather he is there to know them and to love them.
It brought a corrective to my perspective and it gave me even more of a tender heart for you.
Finally, I had ample opportunity to plan and consider our next steps as a congregation. I am excited to come back and to fully engage in the ministry God has for us.
I am excited about…
- Exploring the role that hospitality plays in proclaiming the gospel to our culture
- Helping WEFC become “a house of prayer”
- Developing “shepherd leaders” as we explore the role of elders and deacons
- Launching the church planting residency program now that Steve and Olivia Durgin are here
- Expanding the ministry of Community Groups
Most of all…I am excited about worshiping Jesus with you and as we seek to be his presence to our community.
Photo credit: Bob Anderson
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