Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sabbath Rest

Starting from the philosophy that God commanded Sabbath for a reason and that the Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath, how does one in ministry really experience Sabbath rest?

When I first came to this town, I had various discussions trying to get to know the people of my church, and one group began discussing blue laws. Formerly, there were no activities scheduled at all on Sundays or Wednesday evenings (as they were church nights). This group wistfully recalled how it used to be, but now there were all sorts of activities "on the Sabbath." Truth is, this town is much more accommodating of church schedules than anywhere else I've lived, especially regarding school activities.


But that's really beside the point. The point is that Sunday is my hardest day of work. It's not my longest day of work, but it is definitely the hardest. But you're preaching and singing and worshiping!! you might say. Yes, I am. And even though "going to church" is an integral part of your "Sabbath," it's work, and it's hard. Even though I usually enjoy it and get satisfaction from doing it, it's hard work, and it's exhausting.

I get one day off a week, and it sure ain't Sunday. So where does the ministry professional get Sabbath rest? My priorities are supposed to be as follows:
  1. God
  2. My family
  3. My church

Every week, I do my very best to spend my day off with my family - I need this time with them. They need that time with me. But the expectation is that I spend six days working. I ask again, when does a ministry professional get Sabbath rest?


I wrote a while back about pastor expectations, and I believe that Sabbath rest should be an expectation for every pastor. We need to demand this, and our churches need to demand this of us. Part of this is because when we neglect Sabbath, we are ultimately setting ourselves up as gods. Think about it. What is it that we are saying when you say, "I need to work 60 (or more) hours a week"? We're saying that we have lots of work to do (true), but generally that also means that we are the only ones who can do it.

That's just not true. In fact, it's a sinful way of thinking.

It sets into motion a system that necessarily neglects God's input and pedestalizes the clergyperson in God's place. If we believe that through God, all things are possible; if we believe that God chose to show His glory by culling Gideon's army down to (less than) the bare minimum, and still giving them victory; if we believe that God created everything with a Word (in seven days, literal or not), then can't God do His work through us in a five day work week?

6 comments:

Jeff Greathouse said...

It is also vital for us to work out of our rest and not rest from work.

I believe there are big difference in the mentality. Though we have blurred the concept very well in our society.

Rev. Dulce said...

When I was in seminary finding time for a sabbath day was almost impossible. As soon as I graduated, I designated Friday as my sabbath day and Saturday was for my daughter.

I have one person in my church (unfortunately it is the chair of the SPRC) that has a hard time respecting the Friday time. I think it is more a matter of absentmindedness than anything.

What I really miss is vacation time where I get to stay home.

I've never considered that not taking sabbath time was thinking of myself as a god (It's a good thought). I do believe that not taking time off makes us much less effective. Plus we are truly not modeling a healthy lifestyle for our people.

The Thief said...

Jeff, can you talk more about working out of our rest and not resting from work? I think I might know what you're saying, but it seems to run counter to the advent of the Sabbath (God working six days and resting on the seventh).

Rev, I, too, miss vacation time where I can stay home, but I mostly miss that because there's not much to do here! At my last church, the parsonage was right in the parking lot so there was no rest from work at home. None at all.

Jeff Greathouse said...

The Thief:

I am thinking about it from the man perspective - not God. Maybe I am reading scripture wrong and you can help me out.

On the sixth day, God created man and woman. on the first full day of existence for Adam and Eve, they rested (Sabbath) with God.

So, I think we can read that Adam and Eve rested and then worked and not worked and then rested.

So, we jump to the "we are to work from our rest, not rest from work".

I think that we need to look at biblical stories as well. God has a big prophetic job for Elijah. Elijah (sent by God) went to rest/hide in the cave then went to "work".

It was not the other way around - go work hard then rest.

Jeff Greathouse said...

One more thought to think about is Jesus. Yes, he was tempted but ...

When He was baptized by John the Baptist, He was ready to start his ministry. Of course He had been waiting 30 years. What was the first thing that He did ??

He went to be alone for 40 days before He started His ministry.

This in a sense I think could tie into Sabbath/Sabbatical.

Churches often give their pastors a sabbatical after X years of ministry (sometimes 7). What would happen if we flipped-flopped it. We gave them a Sabbatical to begin their ministry (following the example of Jesus)

The Thief said...

Some good perspective, Jeff. I wonder if it's a both/and rather than either/or. Didn't Elijah's time in the cave happen right after the showdown with the prophets of Ba'al?

And that was a really good point about Jesus and the 40 days in the wilderness. I consider my time in seminary to have been like that. Maybe not everyone gets to experience it like that, but I certainly did.

You can find all sorts of examples from the life of Jesus where He went to be alone with God (Sabbath rest) and then went into a great new aspect of His ministry...

Thanks for the thoughts!!!