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How Not Going to Church Changed my Life

I attend an outstanding church. Great teaching, great worship, great programs, great vision, great staff, great congregation and the Lord’s favor is on us. We are blessed and I love to go to church. My family has a number of volunteer responsibilities there and my wife is even working part time at the church. The church is pretty big with a pretty large staff. Some would call us a mega church. One of advantages of the large church is that it interjects a neat team environment that allows for added flexibility for the leaders. In a lot of smaller churches, the staff (and volunteers for that matter) has to do so much that they are chained to the church night and day with little hope for a real rest. One of the things our church does for it’s senior staff leadership is provide a SABBATICAL periodically for refreshment of the soul, rest for the body and recharging of the psyche. The sabbatical is an extended time away from normal responsibilities at the church where we allow our guys to REGROUP. I don’t really know all the details of our program but I do know that when our guys come back they are ready to roll again. And that is a good thing!

A few months ago, I was talking with one of our pastors who had just come back from a sabbatical and he looked great. You could tell that his time off had rejuvenated him. I walked away from my brief encounter with him and thought to myself, “I have got to figure out a way to interject the Sabbatical concept into my life. Most laymen burn the candle at both ends until they collapse and then have to take an extended restoration breaks (i.e. Many take off for whole years verses small breaks along the way). You and I both know that there is too much to do to take that much time off unless it is an emergency. The harvest is too plentiful and laborers are too few to have folks quitting for extended seasons. We need to have a game plan to get people refreshed along the way. I think that is why Jesus took his disciples aside periodically to process what they were doing and what was the next step for them.

But like most laymen my job, family and volunteer responsibilities don’t allow for a month away. If I took a month off, my bosses (who are great by the way) might encourage me to take the next 11 off as well. Our company’s vacation policy, which is very generous, prefers that we take vacation a week at a time. And my overachieving nature requires me to volunteer in a number of good causes from church to school to kid’s sports. And I love it. Like many of you, involvement in volunteer opportunities is what allows me to engage as salt and light in the community and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. But, after the months turn to years I get a little tired.

This past month I decided it was time for me to take a sabbatical. I had been running full bore for almost two years, and I needed some time off. But, I only had two days of vacation left for the year. In the month of November, I decided that I was going to take a break from everything I could get out of. It was good timing because the end of the year is my busy time in my work. Let me share some specific things I did.

1) I pulled back in every area I was volunteering in.
2) I changed my role in our school dads program from leader to helper.
3) I decided to forgo participation all together in another time cruncher (we are actually taking a sports season off and I am not coaching)
4) I begged off for a month in teaching a 4 year old Sunday School Class
5) I delegated as much of our small group leadership as I could
6) I simplified my personal appointment schedule as much as possible
7) I didn’t go to church for a month- I did read my Bible at Home
8) I tried to maximize my weekends to rest, refresh and recharge. Simplification on the weekends is a big ongoing opportunity to recharge the batteries.
9) I attempted to take extra naps when I could
10) I did take my short vacation time
11) More than anything else, I made a decision to be on Sabbatical. Just the fact that I had a special month planned changed the way I interacted with the rest of the responsibilities that I couldn’t let go.

My son and I are working through the Ten Commandments right now and it is fascinating that one of the ten big principles listed there is the idea of a Sabbath rest on a regular basis. God made the earth in six days and rested on the seventh (Ex 20: 8-11). The pressures that many of our families are feeling would probably ease if we could figure out how to bring the Sabbath idea back into our real lives. One of the next big projects for me is to figure out how to have a weekly Sabbath. For now I am going to enjoy the fruits of my 1st LAYMEN SABBATICAL. I feel refreshed, recharged and ready to roll back in. I am even going to go to church this month!

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