The Minister’s Sabbatical


How to make enemies in the ministry.

From 1988 to my retirement from the factory in 2008 I labored as a bi-vocational pastor. I continue to serve in the ministry of the gospel. (I’ll be 72 later this month.)  For a number of years I preached two messages every Lord’s Day and taught a mid-week bible study. It was five years before I could enjoy two weeks vacation. After 15 years I had earned three weeks of vacation and that number remained the same until my retirement. Most months of any given year I was scheduled to work between 44-48 hours a week so a little vacation was much appreciated. It was also during those years I gave much of the free time I had to doing digital ministry. The wife and I had five children. It wasn’t easy but we survived.

I’m sure you know that this is leading up to something that I want to spit out.


Of late I have heard of a number of men in the ministry taking extended leaves. They describe these leaves as sabbaticals. A good bi-vocational friend of mine is taking a two month sabbatical. Another who is not bi-vocational is taking an extended sabbatical to write. Taking a sabbatical seems to be a growing trend.

There are legitimate reasons for taking an extended leave due to health reasons. At the factory we would request a “sick leave” provided it was required by the family doctor. If we were injured on the job we applied for workmen’s compensation to meet our needs while we healed. There are few or no other options for the working poor.  For them a sabbatical is a pipe dream.

Some years ago I knew a brother/pastor who confided to me that he received a brand new automobile from a generous member of his congregation.  He did not want to share the news of this blessing with others. He was afraid that other men in the ministry would be envious if the word of this generous gift got out. He was right. Like other men, pastors can become envious of one another. The same may also be true of any person.

Blue collar working folk know and hear of preachers who seem to have it all while they struggle to spend a few extra days at the beach with the wife and kids. To be fair not all pastors and academics enjoy the luxury of taking a sabbatical or having the keys to a brand spanking new automobile handed to them.

Listen to Paul as he speaks to the pastors of Ephesus. Acts 20:32-35 CSB

“And now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that I worked with my own hands to support myself and those who are with me. In every way I’ve shown you that it is necessary to help the weak by laboring like this and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, because he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

What would your response be if several families informed you and your church that they were going to be away on sabbatical for several weeks?

Brothers, we have heard it said that we who minister the word of God are not professionals. Do you agree with that statement? There are those times in life when it is better to deny ourselves the privileges that come our way for the sake of the Gospel. As Paul has said, we ought to be examples to the flock.

In love,


Seeing Jesus

Gretchen has written another great post – we hope you enjoy it!


Have you ever had the experience of reading a verse in the Bible that you’ve read perhaps 50 times before, and all of the sudden it jumps off the page at you?  I had that experience recently in reading through 1 John 3:2 “…but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”  My heart went, “Wait—what?”  I read it again.  I have certainly always believed that being in the presence of Jesus one day would be glorious, but this verse is saying that in the moment when we see him as he truly is, we will be like him.

Now my heart began to race.  When we finally see Jesus face to face, just the sight of who he is—his love, his beauty, his glory, his fullness—will be transformational.  So transformational, in fact, that we will be like him.  That reality makes my heart long even more for that day!  When I ponder the ugliness of my own heart, and how I’m so drawn to respond out of selfishness and pride, it’s hard to imagine that I could ever really be like Jesus. And yet, the Bible is telling me that I will be like him someday, when I see him as he is.

As I continued to ponder the wonder of this, another thrilling reality struck me. Trapped in my fleshly body, with the ongoing wrestle of the Spirit and the flesh at odds within my heart, I cannot fully see Jesus as he is now.  But the truth still holds.  Even now, with all of my fleshly trappings, the more I see Jesus as he is, the more I will be like him, because the sight of him is transformational.

Our relationships with people bear this out, don’t they?  When you spend time with an elderly saint, who has walked with Jesus for decades, don’t they just seem to radiate his love?  Isn’t there a gentleness and care for others that some of us younger folks can’t quite make sense of?  There is something about having walked with Jesus day by day, year after year that is transformational.  They have seen Jesus with growing clarity, and seeing him has changed them.

Now, it’s true that there is no substitute for years of walking with Jesus. Seeing him through the ups and downs of life over a period of many years gives us glimpses of him that we just wouldn’t get in a day or two.  Still, wherever we are in our lives, we cansee Jesus more and more clearly.  He longs for us to do just that.  That’s why he’s given us his Spirit to unite us to himself and to continue to draw us close.  The Spirit is constantly welcoming us, constantly wooing us, to see Jesus as he is.

Just one example is the Spirit’s invitation to see Jesus through the Bible. On page after page, we see how Jesus loves and cares for those who are sick and hurting, how he reaches out to those who are marginalized, how he is patient with his failing friends, how he confronts wrong, how he serves and gives, and how, in the ultimate expression of his love, he lays his life down on the cross to give us hope that one day, we will not only be withhim, we will belikehim.

But, why?  Why would Jesus do all of that?  In John 3:16 we’re told that that God, the Father, so loved the world that he sent Jesus so that no one would be lost, but that all would be brought to eternal life. We see Jesus speaking what the Father gives him to speak (John 12:49) and doing the will of the Father (John 6:38).  We see the Father speak his love and approval over Jesus again and again, as Jesus carries out his earthly ministry and is obedient even to death on the cross.  So beloved was Jesus by his Father that his love overflowed to us—as he came, he cared, he served, he spoke, and he died.   The love of our God is an overflowing, outgoing, giving love. That’s the transforming love we see when we see Jesus.

I want see to see Jesus. I want to know him more, love him more, be more like him. May the noise of life in this world not drown out the Spirit’s voice as he speaks to my heart, “Come, see Jesus.” Because seeing him as he is will change me.

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