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.

Sabbaticals

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,
Moe

 

The New Way Of The Spirit

Moe Bergeron, Publisher CMC
Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:1-6 ESV)

Paul’s Analogy

In Romans 7:1-6 the apostle Paul uses the analogy of a Jew who was covenanted through marriage to the Law of Moses. Once the Jew’s spouse (the Law) has died the marriage covenant has come to an end. The widowed Jew is then free to enter into a new marriage covenant.
Paul goes on to explain that we have also died, through the body of Christ to the Law, so that “you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
Mark this well. The departed spouse was specifically, “that Law,” and the new spouse is specifically, “Him who was raised from the dead.”
Paul takes great care to not say the second marriage is to “the Law of Christ.” He could have said that but he did not say that. Why didn’t he? I believe it is simply because the union we have with the risen Christ cannot be reduced to the language of “law.” 
The union the saints of God enjoy is one of a wife to her beloved. It is a union rooted in the “newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter.”

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV)

The Christian’s union to Jesus Christ cannot be compared to mere law keeping. That would not do justice. Jesus Christ is the Word of God who was made flesh thus He transcends words printed on paper or etched in stone. As important are the words on the printed page they are limited. The can only draw a word picture. There is a day coming when God’s saints will see their Husband face to face.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 ESV)

This new relationship, is truly a wedded union, of two hearts forever joined in marriage. Their hearts are bound together in love. The Bride’s desire is to please her husband. Within this blessed union the indicative and the imperative are joined together and given expression.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4 ESV)

Partakers of Christ

Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it so sweetly.

Every true child of God is one with Christ. This union is set forth in Scripture by several images, to which we will just refer, but upon none of which can we just now enlarge.
We are one with Christ and partakers of him as the stone is cemented to the foundation. It is built upon it, rests upon it, and, together with the foundation, goes to make up the structure. So we are built into Christ by coherence and adhesion, joined to him, and made a spiritual house for the habitation of God by the Holy Ghost.
We are made partakers with Christ by a union in which we lean and depend upon him. This union is further set forth by the vine and the branches. The branches are participators with the stem, the sap of the stem is for the branches. It treasures it up only to distribute it to them. It has no sap for itself alone, all its store of sap is for the branch. In like manner we are vitally one with Christ, and the grace that is in him is for us. It was given to him that he might distribute it to all his people.
Furthermore, it is as the union of the husband with the wife, they are participators the one with the other. All that belongs to the husband the wife enjoys and shares with him. Meanwhile she shares himself, nay, he is all her own. Thus it is with Christ. We are married unto him—betrothed unto him for ever in righteousness and in judgment, and all that he has is ours, and he himself is ours.
All his heart belongs to each one of us. And then, too, as the members of the body are one with the head, as they derive their guidance, their happiness, their existence from the head, so are we made partakers of Christ. Oh, matchless participation! It is “a great mystery” saith the apostle; and, indeed, such a mystery it is as they only know who experience it. Even they cannot understand it fully; far less can they hope to set it forth so that carnal minds shall comprehend its spiritual meaning.
The day cometh when we shall be partakers of Christ to the highest and uttermost degree that symbols can suggest, prophecy forestal, faith anticipate, or actual accomplishment bring to pass; for, albeit, though of all that our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven we have a reversionary interest to-day by faith, we shall have a share in it by actual participation ere long.[1]

Passages to Consider

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24 ESV)

His appearance is like Lebanon,
choice as the cedars.
His mouth is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
(Song of Songs 5:15-16 ESV)

“My beloved is mine, and I am his…”
(Song of Songs 2:16 ESV)

 [1] “A Persuasive to Steadfastness”: Delivered on Thursday Evening, February 29th, 1872