SabbathWhat did I learn during my sabbatical?

In many ways, I see this moment and season as a significant crossroads for my life and ministry. The Lord once said to Jeremiah, “Stand (stop) at the crossroads and look around; ask for the ancient paths (the old, godly path), ask where the good way is, and walk in it (travel its path), and you will find rest for your souls (Jer.6:16)." In many ways, I have tried to do just that – stop, look around, ask and then walk.

I have had numerous thoughts about my life and ministry. Here are just a few of them:

1. I need to slow down the pace of my life. I need more stillness and time waiting on God. I need to learn from the eagle who is never flustered or frantically flapping its wings. Rather it leans into the power of the wind and learns to flow with it (see Isaiah 40:31). I need a better and more enjoyable life rhythm, one that honours God and my family. I need to do a better job of embedding the principle of Sabbath into my life. Don't worry, I will continue to work hard and have a passion for fruitfulness in ministry but I must not allow productivity to become an idol that controls my life.

2. I need to look after myself better, in every dimension – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially. I want to enjoy life more and not feel so stressed and stretched all the time. This will require me to stop allowing my work to fill my entire week. I need to switch off more in the evenings, when possible, and on my Day Off (including not checking email). Eliminating (turning off or at least turning down) some of the things that I have allowed to become distractions will help too. Jesus calls us to a burden that is 'easy and light' and one that enables our soul to experience rest (Matthew 11:28-30). The best gift I can give those who I influence is me being a healthy leader – in every way.

3. I need to focus more on being (relationships) than doing (tasks). I need to learn to be and not just do. For me, it's much easier to be a Martha than it is a Mary. This is not just personal but affects my leadership of the church too. Most churches need their leaders to clearly define what they believe God wants them to be (values, culture, DNA), not just where they need to go (vision and goals) or what they needs to do (ministries, activities and programs). This is the focus of Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament church leaders - being the church of Jesus Christ in the world. It’s about identity and a direction more than a destination.

4. The inflow of God's Word and God's Spirit into my life has to increase significantly. I lead, speak and minister much better out of overflow. Quality time in prayer and the Word was the focus of the early church leaders (see Acts 6) and they refused to allow other things to cause them to neglect these God-given priorities.

5. I am very aware that there is an enemy persistently at work, subtly seeking to undermine God’s work in my life. There is a strong spiritual warfare dimension to our lives that we need to be much more aware of. 

6. I believe that I am called to lead our church at this time and for this next season, but maybe in different ways. I need to focus more on what God wants me to do for the church. What is his call and priorities for me as a senior church leader? What does he expect from me? Moses’ example (Deut.1) is key here, as are the apostles (Acts 6). I need to focus on my best contribution to the church, delegating the rest, and saying ‘no’ to opportunities outside of that (which means less travel).

Click here for Part 4.