My Summer Sabbatical

In case you missed it, we announced this week my intention to take a sabbatical this summer. During this time, I will take a break from my regular pastoral duties, including preaching.  My hope is that this time away will create space for myself and my family to experience deep renewal and to be recharged for a new season of ministry as Cornerstone continues to grow.

Additionally, Laura and I plan to use this time to visit some other churches in our area and learn from what they are doing.  (Our kids have rebelled and made it clear that they will remain at Cornerstone and will not be joining us on these visits!)

While the idea of a sabbatical has been in the works for quite a while now, to be honest, I have wrestled quite a bit as to whether or not this would something for me to pursue.  I want to share with you some reasons I have come to see a sabbatical as not only a good thing for me but for Cornerstone as well.

4 Reasons I am Excited to Take a Sabbatical

#1 To allow me to gain a better perspective

I LOVE what I get to do as your pastor.  It’s not that we haven’t had some challenging seasons—I am looking at you COVID-19—but I can tell you nothing has energized me more than being your pastor.  I feel that somehow, I actually have more passion and more energy now, than I did 8 years ago when I first came on staff at Cornerstone. I love that I get to study God’s word each week. I love that I get to share what am I learning in my sermons.  I love our staff.  I love our elders and ministry leaders.  I love our church.  Cornerstone really is a special place!

However, the demands of pastoral ministry, as you might guess, can be pretty unrelenting.  It’s not just the volume and the speed of things that can be challenging, but simply the act of carrying some heavy spiritual burdens day after day, month after month, can become wearisome. 

Even in the midst of outwardly feeling good, I am beginning to notice the toll of stress on my body and my spirit.  For instance, I went through a short period earlier this winter where I didn’t feel like I had the mental capacity to even read – and I love reading!  It was like my mind saying, Nope, we’re done! 

I am reminded though that it is in our weakness that Jesus gives us strength.  And I know that it is precisely in those very times of weariness, that I have most experienced the power of Gods’ grace.  I love that invitation of Jesus, Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden I will give you rest.

My hope – and you can pray for me in this direction – is that during this summer sabbatical, as I willingly step aside from some of my responsibilities, the Spirit can go to work on my own soul.  Blind spots would be revealed.  Convictions would be deepened.  Perspectives would be broadened. 

I am still forming my sabbatical plan, but I hope to carve out extended space to pray and to read, and to study, and to reflect.

We plan to travel and “unhitch” as much as possible – to create space for God go to work. While Laura and I will not be with you all in the worship service on most Sundays, we do not plan to disconnect from the body of Christ at Cornerstone.  Our church family here has been a powerful means of grace for us and we are eager to see that continue over the summer.

#2 To convince myself that I am not at the center of all that God is doing at Cornerstone

It’s a funny thing how quickly a church can get wrapped around the ministry of a single person. And of course that’s fine—provided that person is Jesus!  But if not, that’s a problem.

We live in the era of the celebrity pastor.  Praise God for how he uses pastors and their gifts to lead his church, but we should exercise a lot of caution here. It’s interesting to me that in my relatively short time at Cornerstone, how quickly I have come to think of myself as indispensable to what God is doing at our church.  This is a sin to be repented of!

My hope is that my planned absence this summer will create space for others to step up and to lead—to unleash a bit more of what God might want to do in us and through us.  Cornerstone is growing and I am convinced if we are to continue to grow, we need to have “more hands on deck” leading the charge. 

We have some really exciting things planned this summer that I am actually a little sad to be missing out on.  For starters, we will be doing “Missions Month” this June.  This will be a special time to focus on missions and our missionary partners—with lots of other activities going on through the month. Greg Hills will be preaching on most of those Sundays in June.  If you don’t know Greg, he and his family have been plugged into Cornerstone for over a year now.  He has previously served as a missionary overseas, the senior pastor at a PCA church in the Boston area, and currently serves as the Northeast regional director for MTW (Mission to the World). 

#3 To spend time with my family

Before God called me to be a pastor, he called me to be a husband and a father.  I don’t think my wife or kids would say they have been neglected by me, but like many you, we have been stretched in lots and lots of directions.  I certainly have found myself on many nights sitting at the dinner table with my family being physically present but not fully mentally present at all.

I am looking forward to not just “quality” time but “quantity” time my family.  Laura and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage this summer – we plan to get away for a short trip together.   We are considering some other ways to intentionally use the bonus time we will have. 

We are preparing, as well, to send Ben, our high school senior, off to college (or wherever God is calling him) this fall.  In parenting, our days are often quite long, but the years are short!  We plan to spend lots of time together as a family. 

#4 To come back rested, refreshed, and refocused

Cornerstone is growing.  At a time when many churches are struggling, Cornerstone is not only surviving but thriving.  I don’t know if this growth will continue with such vigor or what God has in store for us, but I want to be ready for whatever it is. I hope to return in the fall with fresh vigor and a renewed perspective on what God has for me and for Cornerstone.