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.