Reflections on a month of Sabbatical

I have a great family. I spent the month of May in my basement working on my dissertation, so naturally I was around my family a bit more. People were often surprised I chose to work at home because they thought I would be more distracted. However, I wanted to be closer to my family. I loved every minute of it. I’m blessed to have a wife and children who wanted me to be home.

I am privileged to pastor a great church. I’m thankful to the deacons for suggesting I take a sabbatical and to the church for their full support. I also found that I really wanted to attend my church’s services even when I didn’t have be there to lead. There’s nowhere else that I would rather worship.

I’m not as attentive to my family as I thought I was. While not pouring shepherding energy into the church, I found myself putting a lot more shepherding energy into my family. I realized that I had put them on the back burner far too much. Many their needs seemed not as great as those in the church, so I wrongly justified giving them less attention. I don’t want to do that again. There will naturally be a change when resume pastoral duties, but I still want to devote my primary pastoring to my family. I think I understand better what the Apostle means when he says that if a man can’t manage his own household, he will not be able to care for God’s church.

I’m not essential, and that feels really good. The church functioned just fine with out me. A few critical meetings happened with out me. The preaching and teaching continued just fine without me. Don’t get me wrong. I am privileged to serve in my position, and I would be quite disappointed if they decided that they didn’t want me. But, my job is to raise up leaders who can continue the work long after me. It feels good to see this happening.

It’s hard to stay plugged into God’s word. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a sermon that I was preparing, and that meant I wasn’t forced to be reading my Bible. I also had a major project—my dissertation—that was hoping to finish before the end of the month. I found it easy to justify not reading my Bible in the morning in order to get a jump-start on my research for the day. And yet I also found what a different it made for my own spiritual state when I did start the day reading the Bible and praying. This tells me, as a pastor, that I need to have sympathy when the members of the congregation tell me that they are too busy to read their Bibles. But, at the same time, I need to encourage them to look to the bible as a first priority because it can make all the difference in the world.

I need to work harder at trusting God with things outside of my control. The hardest part about taking the sabbatical was removing myself from people and projects I care deeply about. However, with some distance I realized that much of my “caring” was really “worrying,” and that doesn’t help anyone. It only models the very thing that will bring disaster on people’s lives. I’m excited to jump back into the projects and relationship, but I need to be more aware of my own limitations. At the end of the day, all I can do is preach and pray. God must do the work. And because he is perfect and sovereign, why would I want it any other way?

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About mike

As a result of God's sovereign grace, Mike is--first and foremost--a Christian. He is the husband of a beautiful wife, father of five wonderful kids, and pastor of Greenbelt Baptist Church, in Maryland.
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