Sabbath is a term that goes against much of modern American evangelicalism. Every now and then, there is a book published or a series of blog posts that focuses on this idea. I have read sections in spiritual discipline books that deal with the importance of this practice. However, it still seems to be something that is rarely discussed from the pulpit. I have decided to write a 3-part blog over the practice of Sabbath and its importance in our lives. Today’s post will primarily focus on those in leadership in the American evangelical church. However, I believe the principle still applies to those in any work environment. Since I operate from a limited view, however, I have decided to speak into the context with which I am acquainted.
In the church ministry world, we have convinced ourselves that unless we are behind something, that endeavor will fail. We pat ourselves on the back for working 50, 60, 70+ hours a week on something because we feel we are working tirelessly for the Gospel. In our age of technological advancement, phone calls, emails, and texts are never more than a glance away. Dinners are interrupted by a “ministry crisis.” Conversations with friends are put on hold while an “important phone call” is taken. Even on days off, we feel the need to check on things. This is unhealthy for us (which I will talk about in a different post), but it is also extremely unhealthy for those with whom we work and come into contact.
When we refuse to rest…to Sabbath…others feel lazy if they take a day off, turn off their phone, and/or refuse to check their email. Our example spurs others on to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Sabbath reminds us to trust in God more than in ourselves.
It reminds us that work is not the most important thing we do.
It reminds us that greed is not good.
It reminds us that the world can function if we turn everything off.
Sabbath reminds us that we are not God.
And when we don’t Sabbath, we try to become God.
So what does this mean for others? Why should we rest for others? Because how we live influences others to live in the same way. If we learn how to rest, others around us will feel less stressed. If we turn things off, others around us will begin to understand that many things can wait.
Sabbath is not only important to us, but to others as well. In Exodus 23.12, it reads: “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.” (NLT)
As leaders, if we don’t rest, then others won’t rest. The principle of this verse applies to today even if the specifics don’t. Leaders are called to Sabbath so that others will Sabbath.
How many stories of ministry burnouts do we need to read before we realize the importance of this practice?
How many heart aching tales of divorce do we need to hear before we begin putting this discipline into practice?
How many health issues do we need to have plague our lives before we understand that our bodies are not made for the stress we endure?
If people around us are showing exhaustion and stress, could it be an indicator that we have not set an example of Sabbath in our own lives? If those we know seem to become more and more needy, could it be because we have not rested as we should have? Sabbath is important for us…but it also reminds others to not look to individuals as God, but to look to God as God. It reminds others that they cannot become God.
Sabbath for others.