Sabbatical: An Extended Time Of Rest

I first considered taking a sabbatical when a friend who was retiring from full-time church leadership, told me that he regretted not taking one or two during his ministry.

That comment prompted me to pray and ask God if I should take one myself. The answer God gave me seemed to be yes, but I kept coming up with all manner of excuses as to why I couldn't or shouldn't, until eventually God told me that if I didn't I was being disobedient. So that settled it!

I'm no expert on the Biblical understanding of 'rest', but I know enough to understand that God is in charge of all things and accordingly He invites me to live everyday relying on Him. Therefore, I can 'rest' from normal toil once a week - a sabbath rest, or from an extended period of normal toil - a sabbatical rest. This is not because there is nothing to be done, but because God is in charge of all things. Therefore, in my simple understanding if God tells you to take a sabbatical, the best thing to do is to take a sabbatical - an extended period of 'rest'.

A sabbatical is not the same as a holiday, which is about disengaging from responsibilities to eat ice creams on a beach (that's my idea of holiday). Rather, it's about a time when you don't have the normal responsibilities and demands of working for a church, in order to listen to and engage with whatever God wants to do or say.

And so, for me the key question was what did God want me to do during this extended time of rest?

1) Study - I spent time studying in depth the first three chapters of Genesis, especially Genesis 1, not in order to preach or teach from it but simply to get a better understand of the 'beginnings'.

2) Relationships - I wanted to strengthen and build some relationships which I already had and so during the course of my Sabbatical I spent a month with Redeemer Church in The Hague and Newfrontiers Church in New Hampshire, USA.

3) Look and Learn - I felt God encourage me that whilst I was with these two churches He would teach me things about church and ‘sphere’ life.

Looking back on my Sabbatical, I feel that I spent the time doing what God had told me to do, which is always a good thing! Not being responsible for or doing the normal things of church life definitely gave me space and time to listen to God about things He wanted to say, particularly in relation to my character and how I use one of our most precious resources - time.

Upon honest reflection, I don't think I know half of the ways that God has strengthened and blessed me during my Sabbatical 'rest', but I trust that I will discern more as time goes on. For the other half that I do know, I am very grateful to Him, King's Church and New Ground.