From mid-September through mid-November, I'll be taking a sabbatical. Traditionally, sabbaticals are designed to accomplish three separate but related purposes:
1. It's an opportunity to rest and be renewed.
2. It's a chance to study and learn in a focused way.
3. It's a time to work on special projects.
As I have reflected and prayed in the last several months, I'm ordering those priorities 1, 3, 2. Over and over again I've been brought face to face with God's desire for me to rest and be renewed. I have had to fight my own ambitious ideas about all I could get accomplished during that time. Repeatedly it has become clear that God's agenda for me includes a lot of down-time. So I'm taking this time during the fall, which is traditionally a busy time for pastors. It's also my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons, not least that fall is filled with hunting opportunities. One of the best ways for me to be renewed is to sit on a stand up in a tree in full camo, waiting for a whitetail to wander by.
The second priority for me during this time is to work on some writing projects. I've been writing a manuscript that follows Jesus from a hunter's perspective. As you can see, this project will complement my rest and renewal time quite well. My goal, at least at the moment, is to finish the manuscript by late October. There are also a couple other writing projects waiting in the wings.
While I'm not taking any formal courses or attending any seminars, I'm planning to do some focused reading and reflecting during my sabbatical as well. Central is currently in the midst of changes that are not exclusive to our church, but are sweeping across western Christianity as a whole. I've written about many of these changes in this blog. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you heard me go on (and on) about the book Total Church, which expresses a radical new way of doing church in mid-sized communities. I'm looking forward to reading more about these mid-sized communities and related changes affecting churches like Central. My biggest reading focus -- one that I've already started -- is the New Testament. The last few weeks I've read both John's gospel and Matthew's gospel. I'm planning to work my way through Mark and Luke and then start the gospels again, then work my way through the rest of the New Testament. It's been fun to pore over these stories, always asking the question, "Who are you, Lord? I want to know you better!"
What will my sabbatical mean for this blog? I will still be posting from time to time to share some of what I'm learning and experiencing. Apologies in advance for what I expect will be more sporadic posting. But do check back from time to time, or better yet become a "follower" by clicking on "Join this site" to receive notifications whenever there's a new blog post added here.
My hope is that you will pray for me during these two months. For a kid raised on the farm, it seems a little weird to take a couple months off work. (We raised beef cattle, not just grain. The grain farmers understand about taking a couple months off.) As many of you have told me, "That's not a bad deal if you can get it." I take seriously the fact that this is a gift given to me by the congregation of Central, and that it comes with some responsibility to use my time wisely, to be renewed and to grow so that I can come back in November with renewed passion and energy. Above all, I want to grow in my relationship with Jesus. I recently heard a speaker define success in ministry this way: You love Jesus more at the end of your life than you did anytime up to that point. What a great definition! So thanks for your prayers. These would be good directions to pray for me!