The Minister's Rest and the Rest of the Summer
When I lived in Indiana I was surrounded by fields and farmers. From spring planting to fall harvesting, these men and women worked hard to bring fruit from the soil. As Paul indicates in 2 Timothy 2:6, "It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” In Paul’s day, like ours, farmers are known for their hard work. The same is true for those who sow and water with the word of God. Like the farmer, early mornings, long nights, and constant concern for the Lord’s harvest are a heavy burden.
Fortunately, God gives seasons to farmers. In the winter months, hard-working farmers receive a time of rest and recovery. But at the same time, these hard-working farmers take time to plan for the next year, for the increase of the harvest. I remember taking to them in the winter months as they would be making their seed orders, learning more about new techniques, and equiping themselves with the latest machinery. Sure, there were trips to the beach, holiday celebrations, and the ability to take an afternoon nap. But far more, these men and women spent their time preparing for the upcoming harvest.
This imagery is helpful when we think about a sabbatical. In the Old Testament, Israel was commanded to take a sabbatical from the land every seven years (Exodus 23:10-11). Following in the footsteps of their heavenly father (Genesis 2:1-3), they were called to rest. Rest in the Bible is never a time of inactivity and lethargy. Rather it is a time when God and his people enjoy one another. Such is the background for ministers of the gospel who occasionally take a season of rest and refreshment. The goal is not to pull away from the church, the Lord, or his work. But rather, it is a time of reflection, rest, and refreshment for future ministry.
Indeed, Charles Spurgeon spoke of the necessity for "holy inaction and consecrated leisure." In his Lectures to My Students, the London pastor said,
It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on for ever, without recreation may suit spirits emancipated from this 'heavy clay', but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure. Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for a while.” (161)
This principle of rest is true for all Christians, and especially those who labor to feed and tend the flock. This summer, we are giving one of our hard-working farmers such a sabbatical. From May through July Ben Purves, our pastor for student ministries, is taking a three-month sabbatical. In principle, a ministerial sabbatical is often given after a period of dedicated service, whereby the pastor can study, pray, commune with the Lord, spend time with family, and recalibrate patterns and spiritual habits that can be maintained in ministry. After serving for seven years at OBC and giving above and beyond during the last two years, Ben is taking time to study, take a seminary class, pray, and plan for the next season of ministry at OBC.
During the summer you will see Ben and his family at OBC, but he will not be giving leadership during these months. So please bring your needs to the other elders and deacons. At the same time, let me encourage you to pray for him. Here are a few particular ways:
- That I would truly unplug and learn to be more fully present at home with Ricki and the kids.
- That the gift of this season would be a blessing to my family.
- That I would have a firmer grip on my identity in Christ rather than find identity in position.
- That this would be a time of growth in spiritual disciplines (specifically prayer).
- Time to look back and contemplate these last few years.
- That this season would further equip me for serving the church.
- To replenish, reset, and form new habits for future health and faithfulness.
During his sabbatical, we have called an intern to come and help meet our teaching needs. Timothy Cox is his name and he will be finishing his last class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an internship at our church. Tim will arrive during the last week of May and will be with us until the first week of August. You will see Tim serving with the youth, helping with some administrative duties during the week, meeting with the elders, and participating in Sunday services. Please pray for him as he makes his way here.
To share a little more about Tim. He grew up in Brazil on the mission field. His grandfather helped start the Word of Life seminary in Sao Paulo. Growing up primarily in Brazil, where his parents served and continue to serve at the seminary, Tim went to Cedarville University after which he joined the Navy, and then sensing a call to serve the Lord began school at SBTS. He will graduate this Spring with one final credit to complete this summer, and he will be staying in the DC area after his internship, as he goes to school at Johns Hopkins this Fall.
We are thrilled to have such an experienced and well-studied young man to come join us for the summer. He will be learning from the elders, and he will be teaching weekly in our youth’s Sunday School class and/or Tuesday night study. We are deeply thankful to be able to give Ben a well-deserved rest and to receive such a gifted young man to serve us this summer.
These are exciting days at OBC and we pray God would continue to shine his grace upon us that we might make his gospel known to our neighbors and the nations (Psalm 67).
For His Glory and your joy,
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