“A sabbatical is what professors do, right?” I’ve heard the comment more than once. When pastors take a sabbatical, there’s a sneaking suscipion that it’s all about getting an extended vacation. Well, that is a temptation isn’t it. But it’s not supposed to be. In fact, last year I did some research about pastoral sabbaticals and I was very surprised to find that while there were many reasons for sabbaticals, there was really only one common theme for them. The themes of spiritual renewal and refreshing occured again and again in the articles. Many pastoral sabbaticals have assignments attached to them and so does mine. It’s just that the assignment isn’t in first place. Future blogs will explain the assignments and my progress in them.
Our sabbatical has three goals. The first goal is to wait on God for renewed vision for pastoral ministry. Like any other “career” activity in life, we need times of personal reassessment and evaluation. The most important thing about any of us is not what we do, but who we are in Christ. Pastors (and their wives) are in the first place Christians, followers of Christ, then husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law and (in my case) a grandfather. Then we are pastors. Notice the priority. But even then, pastors are not “professionals” in the cultural sense of the word. Professionalism and the essence of Christian ministry don’t belong in the same sentence. Pastors must be, as John Piper has written, “radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, [and] culture-confronting!”
The second goal is the actual project. Two writing projects will take up my time. The first is all about William Gurnall, spiritual warfare and the believer’s union with Christ. In fact, the title of this blog site, “The Saint’s Armor” comes from William Gurnall’s seventeen century book The Christian in Complete Armour. The second writing project is to find and/or create a curriculum for the men of Faith Baptist Church about becoming pastors in their homes serving their families in Christ’s name.
The third goal is most anticipated. Looking forward to doing all the above while spending some time with my wife and our family. Nita is so ready to spoil our grandkids. They are looking forward to playing together! Ruthie is looking forward to spending lots of time with her buddy, Liza.
Here’s the weird part of all this — how we are going to pull this off. Nita and I, with our big white fluffy Doodle, will be living for three months in a camping trailer all of 185 square feet! That’s smaller than the first apartment we lived in when we got married. But that’s OK, because I am keeping a promise to Nita. I told her when we got married that I’d take her to all the finest places.
There is a fourth goal, now that I think about it. A sabbatical isn’t all about the pastor; it also involves the church. FBC gets a sabbatical from me! Now some will think “it’s about time” and others will wonder at the wisdom of that. Let me assure you, churches need sabbaticals, too. Just check out the times of refreshing that came to Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s church in Dundee, Scotland when he went on a mission’s trip to Palestine in 1839. The refreshing of revival came to his church during his absence. He was not miffed at being, as he said, “set aside” for a period of time. He was much more thrilled that the Spirit did this great work among the people he loved so dearly. Just proves again that pastors and churches should remember they are dispensable but God never is!