I thought it might be helpful for me to share some thoughts and plans about my Sabbatical. Taking a sabbatical is something that I have been thinking and praying about for several years. This process has included talking with a number of other church leaders in other churches as well as the directors of Life Church.
My initial reaction when someone suggested that I should be making plans to take a sabbatical was why would I want to do that? I enjoy my work and consider it an immense privilege to be able to give myself fulltime to pastoring God's people, why would I want a break from that when so many people feel trapped in jobs and roles that are simply a means to an end rather than a vocation.
My thinking began to change when someone else gave me a sabbatical guidebook prepared by the Navigators, a mission organisation, who have a policy of requiring their staff to plan for a sabbatical every 7-10 years. In there I read these words: Taking a sabbatical is an application of the biblical principle of rest - times we deliberately trust God with the unfinished. As an act of faith, we disengage from our regular work for the purpose of worship, rest, renewal, and repair. It is a guided process where we deliberately trust God for the unfinished as we disengage from normal ministry and leadership involvement to allow for serious evaluation of life and ministry. Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Matthew 11:28-30 in The Message captures this thought:
'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.'
A sabbatical is a time to quiet the noise of life and hear the voice of Jesus.
In September this year I will have been lead Elder of Life Church for 8 years and an Elder for 15½ years in total. Reading the guidebook, I began to recognise in myself signs that, in order to be ready for the next period of ministry, it was important to withdraw from the day to day business of ministry in order to 'Get away with Jesus'.
How will I do this? There are three phases. Starting in July I will be attending a few conferences including 'The Future of Complementarity' and the Keswick Convention. In the latter part of July and early weeks of August I will be taking holiday with the wider family as well as just Ann and myself by ourselves. Thirdly at the end of August and during September I will be in Bangalore, India. During this time I will be based in a Bible College where I will do some extended study. I will also be visiting the Bethesda School (where Tim Colebrooke is currently) and churches we have links with in Goa and Mumbai.
I believe that this programme will enable me to draw close and hear the voice of Jesus and receive fresh vision and commissioning from Him. I believe too that these three months will be a season of God growing and strengthening Life Church, preparing us all for what he has in store for us.