Are there things you said then that you certainly don’t think now?
This morning, the elders of Church of the Cross (of which I am one), announced that, beginning November 01, I will begin a three-month sabbatical.
I have been in “paid ministry” for around ten years now. After having served as an Associate Pastor in KY, and serving four years in TX, in 2008 my family and I moved back to Glendale, AZ to plant a church. It was a return home for me and nearly one for my wife. We hit the ground running planting Church of the cross, beginning with 12 adults and 16 kids in the living room of our rented house.
Here we are, a little over five years into it and we can only marvel at God’s faithfulness. He has brought together a group of people who are serious about loving God and others. And, though it has been a lot of work, it has truly been a joy to point to Jesus with these people who truly are my family.
But no matter how much our ministries may (or may not be) be fueled by joy, years of bearing other people’s burdens can become tiresome. Even Jesus withdrew regularly. And, as this weight began to catch up with us, God changed our lives forever.
Kristi and I have been foster parents for a while now. Almost 15 months ago, we got a call asking if we could pick up a two-day-old baby boy from the hospital. We have had “Baby G” (since he is still technically a ward of the state, I cannot reveal his name) ever since. He is a Bozo-haired joy and we love him. Period. And God has allowed us to begin the process of adopting him. In May, we got a call from CPS asking if we could take Baby G’s three older siblings (who were also in a foster home). We said yes immediately (read more here, here, here, and here).
Though we are still convinced that taking all the kids was the right thing to do, and though these kids are true blessings, we are tired. And, a few months ago, I began to realize that I had been wrong about something. Reality was butting heads with my idealism. I remember saying that I didn’t understand pastors who took sabbaticals. I mean, if a pastor felt burnout, that’s just because his relationship with God isn’t sustaining him, right? Sort of the same way some Christians still ignore the biological aspects of things like depression or teach that if you don’t believe in a literal six-day creation then you don’t believe the rest of the Bible. But I digress.
It has taken me ten years to remember that God has built regular rhythms of rest into created order itself. Yes, I’m a slow learner. Even Jesus regularly withdrew from the crowds to find solitude and seek refreshment in prayer.
So, beginning in November, I will begin a three-month sabbatical.
This means that, though I will preach once approximately every 5 weeks during that time, I will hold no other responsibilities for the church as a “paid pastor.” Our other elders (who are awesome, by the way), and others will divide up my current daily responsibilities and the elders will be spiritually shepherding our family through this time.
This does not mean we will disappear. We will not withdraw from community. We will regularly (but maybe not always) worship with our church family. Though we will not be leading, we will still be part of our missional community and both Kristi and I will continue meeting regularly with our DNA groups. We just won’t be the contact people for our church or missional community families for a while. We will be encouraged to rest.
This process has made us incredibly thankful for our church family and the God who holds us together. We are thankful for supportive elders and a loving church family. We are incredibly humbled by this opportunity and we can’t wait to see how God grows us during this time.