Sabbath For Yourself

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IMG_3159I usually know when I need to sabbath (or rest). My personality is usually a bit more cynical and I am easily angered. Stress seems to be all around me. It becomes difficult to remember my daily schedule. God is likely a distant thought for me.

Unfortunately, when I know I need a sabbath, it is usually too little too late. When your body tells you to rest, it’s usually because you should’ve rested long ago and now you are running on fumes. Is it any wonder why we see so many health issues among people who are young? They feel like if they stop, then they will fail.

For those in the church world, we tend to ignore the Sabbath because we are “doing God’s work and God never takes a break.” This thought is utter nonsense. Of course God takes a break.

Some equate their love for God with how much work they do for Him. This is disheartening because it loses sight of the Gospel message.

Some believe that the eternity of mankind rests on their shoulders. It must be hard to play God like that…which is why it is probably better that we let God play God.

Most that I know in ministry will say, “I rely on God.” However, that statement proves false unless sabbath happens. Our reliance on God is directly connected to how we sabbath.

We need to get rid of the image that working late from home is a good thing.

We need to get rid of the mindset that turning off our phones could be disastrous.

We need to stop fostering a culture that enables people to become solely dependent upon someone other than God.

We need to stop thinking that the eternal fate of humanity lies on the shoulders of those who work in a church.

We need to learn that it is okay to say no.

We need to learn that the same email will be there tomorrow.

We need to learn that work was never meant to destroy.

We need to learn that martyrdom is not spending all your time working in a church.

We need to know that we aren’t God.

I say that phrase a lot because I have to remind myself of that frequently. This is why I believe it is so important to sabbath for yourself. As a pastor, I can easily succumb to the thought that I am God. Of course, I wouldn’t come right out and say that; otherwise, I would be a heretic. But it is easy to think to yourself: “If I don’t meet with this person, what will he/she do?” Or “If I am not at every single thing this person does, then I am failing as a pastor.” Or “The more I do, the further God’s Kingdom is advanced.” Or “People need to know and I’m the only one who can say it.” Or “I am in charge of their discipleship and I have to be there for them at all times.”

When I begin to think those things, I realize that I think I am God.

If Jesus needed to get away every now and then, why do you think you don’t need it?

If God, after creating the world, decided to rest, then why do you see resting as weakness?

I fear sabbath because I fear the truth about my motivations.

Clear away all of the religious phrasing (doing it all for the Kingdom, running on Jesus, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, etc.), and I find that I refuse to rest because I fear my motivations. Pastors, just like everyone else, want to leave their mark. They want to be remembered. They want to be the next Billy Graham, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We can say that we want to impact our community for Christ…but that can often transform into, “Caleb impacted the community for Christ,” or “Caleb’s church impacted the community for Christ.”

Sabbath puts us in our place. Sabbath humbles us. Sabbath reminds us that we are not the most important person in the world. Sabbath forces us to admit that our motivations are not pure. Sabbath tells us that God does not desire a martyr who died because he/she refused to take a break. Sabbath is the truth that in my weakness, Christ is strong. Sabbath points us to community. Sabbath is part of the Kingdom. Sabbath lets God be God.

How about you?

Do you really work as hard as you do to provide a good life for your family? Or are you working as hard as you do because you want to be remembered? Because you want to be successful?

Did you really take that second job to make ends meet? Or did you take that second job because of greed?

Do you refuse to rest because you don’t have time? Or do you refuse to make time because you are fearful of what you might hear from God?

If you take a break, I’m sure the world won’t come crashing down…but if it does, at least you’ll be reminded that God is God and you are not.

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Jesus is Unemployable

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A church of 500 wants a new music minister. Qualifications desired? 12 years of music experience and a Masters in Music.

A church of 150 wants an associate pastor. Qualifications desired? Masters in Bible, proven success in a previous church, and correct answers to several questions about the relationship with your wife.

A church of 150 wants a senior pastor. Qualifications desired? Experienced preacher.

A church of 50 wants a senior pastor. Qualifications desired? A wife with musical abilities.

A church of 500 wants a youth minister. Qualifications desired? 7 years of experience in a church of 500 or more and a Master of Divinity.

A church of 200 wants a preacher. Qualifications desired? 5 years experience.

A church of 150 wants a youth minister. Qualifications required? 5-7 years of experience. Musical abilities. Bachelor’s Degree.

I think you get the point. As I began looking for churches to serve in while pursuing my M.Div., this is what I ran into. It seemed like every church I looked at had high qualifications desired. Some were as ridiculous as 12 years of experience for a church of 100!

My favorite out of the examples given had to be the one that said: “Qualifications desired? A wife with musical abilities.” How is that a qualification?! I guess that’s an easy way to narrow down the playing field.

As I was looking through all of these churches and what they were looking for in a candidate, I began to laugh. I thought to myself, “Jesus couldn’t even get hired at this church!” Wait. Does that sound right? Jesus couldn’t get hired at a church?

Was he married? No…
Did he have musical abilities? According to “Jesus Christ, Superstar” he did…
How many years of experience? Well…3 years of ministry…
How about education? He had it…we can assume…
Did his wife have musical abilities? Refer to the top…

It is quite startling. Isn’t it? Somewhere in the history of the church, we began placing higher and higher qualifications on ministers. Part of me is not opposed to this. I value education. I believe that we should educate ourselves as much as possible.

But as for the ridiculous years of experience…that is a little out of hand. There used to be a time when churches gave chances. That is one thing I love about my home church. They desire to hire someone without experience. They want to be able to give those years of experience to someone.

Churches seem to no longer want to take chances. Perhaps that is because they have been burnt. Perhaps it is because they are concerned about numbers. Perhaps it is because they think they are at a level where they deserve the best.

I want to work at a church one day that takes chances. I want to work at a church that looks at experience on paper and says, “So you don’t have a lot. But tell me what you think you can do.” The church needs to begin taking chances again. Not just within hiring pastors; but chances in general (another topic for another time).

So, if you are a church and you are reading this, give someone a chance. Take a risk. Isn’t there some sense of ego in desiring someone with 7 years of experience? Have we, as a church, begun to think of ourselves as advanced as needing that? Do we think we “deserve” that? It is rightfully ours? Is it okay to desire that because we are so big? The answer to all of these questions: yes. Because one person can destroy the Church. Christ’s bride is doomed if you hire someone inexperienced. Because those ministers involved in the affairs, embezzlement scams, and porn searching were all inexperienced ministers….weren’t they? Or were they ministers who worked on gaining years of experience and neglected integrity.

I’m happy that God looks at the heart and not at anything else. It gives me comfort. Whenever I read Hebrews 11, I am reminded that God does not desire 7 years of experience, a M.Div., and a wife with musical abilities. He desires us to want to be used.

So how is this doable? This sounds pretty, but it is not realistic. This would take too much time. We would have to call all these candidates. We would actually have to carry on conversations with them. We would have to treat them like people rather than numbers. In reality, we would have to give more attention to who we are hiring. And who knows…if we stopped looking at the years of experience a typical workplace desires, maybe we would hire Jesus (figuratively, of course…I’m not being literal. You see how this all connects to the beginning. It makes sense, right? I hope so.).Image