On Sabbatical

To my beloved Alameda church family,

As you know, this year has been an exciting and intense season of activity for our church family.  This year we have effectively made several strategic changes to our church culture in order to become more intentionally focused on the Great Commission that Jesus gave his church to pursue.  What you may not know is just how difficult, stressful, and pressure-packed that work has been.

Peter Drucker, the famed leadership and management researcher and author, ranked being the leader of a church as one of the two most difficult jobs in the world due to the broad skill set that is required of the job, the unique pressure that comes with the “eternal” nature of the job, and the stress of meeting the (often) unrealistic expectations of the congregants.  While you may be tempted to downplay Drucker’s ranking, the point is that being a preacher/pastor is an extremely difficult and demanding job.

And that job takes a toll on a person and comes with an extraordinary cost.

Our Elders have observed this in my life and they have asked me to take a month-long sabbatical during the month of November.  In their words, they are “grateful for what I have done for the church, but it’s time for you to take care of yourself.”

And, while I hate to admit it, they are right.

I have been taking care of other people for so long that I have stopped properly caring for myself the way I should.  I have not been a good steward of my body, and I have been “running” so hard, so fast, for so long that my mind and spirit are also exhausted.

Fortunately, I serve at the pleasure of some truly amazing spiritual shepherds at Alameda who love me enough to shepherd me too.  And they have insisted that I take an extended leave so that I can rest, recuperate, and recharge.

They have asked me not to do any church-related work and not to come into the office in November.  This will be hard for me because I don’t really have any hobbies – all I do is work, read for work, plan for work, and do work-related meetings.

But I know I need the break – and so do you.  I have been pushing you hard toward our vision for many months, and you need some time to catch your breath.  The elders and our incredible ministry team will be taking care of all my duties during the month, so I know you are in great hands.

I was recently talking to a former minister about this sabbatical, and he said, “Rusty, I’m excited for you.  I truly believe that if I had taken a sabbatical I would still be in ministry.”  That comment reminded me that, while taking a break is not in my nature, this is a good thing for me and for Alameda.

I need to be healthy to help Alameda continue to be healthy.  And I need to fill my emotional and spiritual tank so that I will continue to have something of value to pour into your lives.

The recently deceased Eugene Peterson once wrote the following about ministry sabbaticals: “If we are going to take sabbaticals, let them be real sabbaticals: a willed passivity in order to be restored to alert receptivity to spirit-prayer, silence, solitude, worship.  It is outrageous that we acquiesce to the world’s definition of our word and let our unique, biblical sabbatical be put to the use of career advancement, psychological adjustment, and intellectual polish – with all the prayer and contemplation laundered out.  The original intent of Sabbath is a time to be silent and listen to God, not attend lectures; a time to be in solitude and to be with God, not “interact” with fatigued peers.  If help is to be given to the pastor in midcourse, it is not going to come by infusion of intellect, but by renewal of spirit.”

And that’s what I intend to do on sabbatical.

I intend to spend time with God in a way that His Spirit will renew my spirit.

So that I can return to you with renewed energy and perspective.

I don’t ask you to pray for me very often, but I am asking now.  Would you please pray for me while I am away from you?

Pray that God will draw me closer to Him so that I can make Jesus known to more and more people with greater effectiveness and intentionality.

I am nervous about this opportunity, but I am also excited.  I am excited about what I will learn and how I might grow.

We have a great future ahead of us, Alameda.

See you in December!

I love you,

Rusty

 

 

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