A theme has been coming to the surface recently in my life. I have noticed it in my calls with my coach and texts with my accountability partner. That theme is…rest.
I’m sure many of you have found yourself in a situation like mine. You are in the middle of some great stuff. You are working hard, the to-do list is full. You’re having great conversations with people. Lives are being changed. You’re seeing momentum in your church or ministry.
In that season, it’s difficult to put down the laptop or notebook and take a break. Why? Because great stuff is happening. You have to ride that wave. Keep pushing the flywheel until it’s really rolling. You can almost feel it, the breakthrough is just on the other side of one more day, week or month of hard work.
Then it happens.
You realize you haven’t been taking your day off. You haven’t had a REAL vacation in years. All of a sudden it feels like everything is crashing down.
One of my goals is to always come back to the theme of rest. To help pastors and church leaders take a season of rest before it’s too late. Before a moral or financial failure. We have seen this too often in church leaders.
This week I was struck by Jim Burgeon, lead pastor at Flatirons Community Church in Boulder, Colorado. He posted a 10 minute video for his church to tell them about a six-month sabbatical his elders have told him to take. What I love about it is his honesty and openness. But what I love more than anything is that he is doing this now before it’s too late.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, take a look.
To be very clear: I respect Jim and the elders of Flatirons Community Church for this decision.
Here’s where rest intersects disciple making. Discipleship at its core is obedience to God and God calls us to Sabbath rest. He can do more with our six days of effort than we can if we work all seven. Let’s get ahead of burn out and moral failures in our lives and churches by recommitting to Sabbath rest as a matter of obedience to God. What is it going to take for us to make that a reality in our lives?
Here are five action steps that need to be taken.
Rediscover Sabbath Rest
I think sometimes we view time off as a weakness. If we step away to refuel, then we are weak and incapable of the responsibilities of leadership and making disciples. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Spend some time studying Scripture and what God says about Sabbath. It’s a sign of strength and trust in God the Father. In obedience we declare that we trust God more than we trust ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves, this speaks more to what we believe about God than anything.
Small God = I can’t take time off, I need to work, God is incapable of doing work outside of my effort or I don't trust Him to follow through on His part, my God is weak but I am strong.
Big God = God is capable, His grace is sufficient and He will cover for my weakness while I take time and enjoy some rest and fun, I trust Him to follow through on His part, my God is strong and I am weak.
Commit to Top Priorities Only
In other words, stop doing what doesn’t matter and what isn’t making more disciples. There are at least one million and one good programs out there for the church to do. If you are running twenty programs and are seeing no fruit in new people or your current people, it’s time to end those programs. If a small group of people get mad that the programs are going away, then they were more committed to a program than the mission of the church. That should be a clue as to the ineffectiveness and lack of health in that program.
Get Serious About Accountability
Who have you given the ability to come up to you after a Sunday and say, “Hey, you seem tired. What day are you taking off this week?” Who can speak into your life at that level? I believe every pastoral failure that makes the news can be traced to that person believing they were above accountability.
No one could tell them to slow down
No one could tell them they needed to rest
No one could tell them they were in danger
It’s easy for us to point fingers, scoff and run through the, “that will never happen to me,” scenarios when a pastor or church leader fails. It’s more difficult work to put ourselves under the authority of someone we trust to call us out when needed.
Discover What Brings You Joy And Happiness
What hobby or activity brings you to life? There are thousands of possible answers.
Restoring old cars
Listening to music
Eating good food
Exploring new cities
For me, it’s a little bit of time on two wheels. I love that time of rest from work and reconnecting with God. Looking around at His creation, rolling through the hills of Virginia is a great time of spiritual refueling. Even my wife says I’m different after a ride.
Discover what brings you life, joy and happiness. Then fill a day with that. Allow your soul to rest and find refreshment in an activity that God has wired you to enjoy. Thank God for that time of fun and trust Him to do work while you rest.
Communicate Sabbath Rest With Your Team
Whatever day it is that you are choosing to give time to Sabbath rest, be sure to communicate that with your staff team. No matter how many you are responsible for, make sure they know you are unavailable that day. This does a couple things for you.
It gives you an added layer of accountability to actually take that day off and rest.
It leads by example to your team that they need to be doing the same.
Now when you ask your team if they are taking their day off and resting, they will take you seriously. They will know that it’s a matter of obedience to God because they will have seen it modeled.
If we are going to see a resurgence of the Gospel and a disciple making movement in our day, it is going to require a renewed commitment to Sabbath rest. We must see it is an act of obedience to God and trusting Him to do more than we can ask or imagine.
What would you add to help pastors and church leaders to get back to Sabbath rest?