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Why Every Pastor Needs a Sabbatical

Why Every Pastor Needs a Sabbatical

Today is my first day of work back from my summer sabbatical.  First off, I want to thank my great church for providing me with this much needed opportunity.  It has been refreshing and I feel energy for ministry in a way I have not felt for quite some time.

Pastors need sabbaticals.  I know of some pastors who have approached their church board to ask for one and they have been turned down, or they are afraid to even ask because they know what the response will be.  These boards and church memberships need to wake up and smell the coffee of what it’s like to be a pastor; which often is a cheap, burnt, stale coffee that’s been on the burner for waaay too long.  Being a pastor is one of the most difficult jobs that exists.  It is not the hours spent in the office or the research or the strategizing, it is the constant emotional and spiritual outpouring, a faucet that rarely shuts off.  It is the relational weight you carry around, knowing you have befriended an entire flock and you desire to be there for them, but you can only go so far for so long.  These things take a toll on a person.  Pastors are not superhuman or superheros.  If you think yours is, or treat him as such, I promise you he will be resigning within the next 3 years.

I firmly believe when you deprive a pastor of a sabbatical you are telling him or her, “We want you to burn out.  We want your marriage to fail.  We want you to have a severe disconnect in your relationship with God.  We want frustration to drive you off the cliff of ministry and of life.”

What else can be interpreted when a pastor is crying out for help and the replies are: “Well I don’t get a break in my job, so you don’t either…” or “We already give you 4 weeks of vacation, what more do you need?” or “How will the church survive the summer without you?”

We already give you 4 weeks of vacation, so go ahead and cheat on your spouse as you feel like God has abandoned you, we certainly aren’t giving you more time off you lazy bum.  Working in the business world is just like having the spiritual, emotional, and relational weight of an entire congregation on your shoulders, you didn’t realize that?  (Yeah right.  This is why every single pastor has a “fantasy dream job” in the business world where they don’t face the pressures of ministry.  They think about it on the days they want to quit the ministry.  Every  pastor has this.  And if they don’t, they will within a couple of years!)

Oh yeah, and sabbatical time is not vacation time.  It’s very intentional with specific goals.  And if you give your pastor a sabbatical, don’t make them do a million things they have to report back to you on.  Trust them that they have an honest heart for God, otherwise you shouldn’t have hired them, and let the Holy Spirit lead them to what is best for them.  This may be going to conferences, job shadowing at prominent churches around the USA, living in a cabin in the woods for a couple months, or even playing semi-pro football!  Let your pastor make these decisions, not you.  Children need babysitters, not pastors on sabbatical.  Let the man rest with the Lord and get way from the expectations and pressures of church life for a few months.

And make it at least 3 months, none of this 4-6 week business.  That’s about how long it will take for him to realize he doesn’t want to quit his job!  Make sure you give him 3+ months so he can not only decompress, but also recharge and come back at full speed.  Trust me, 3 months is an easy investment when the return is a fully charged pastor ready to minister in high spirits for the next 5-7 years, something you will not get without the sabbatical.

I’m not saying it’s always as dire as a marital affair and total collapse, but there are certainly some dramatic rumblings beneath the surface of many pastors that they are never able to be honest about because they will be judged or fired if they express them.

Some of you have pastors who never even use up the vacation days you do give them.  This should not be applauded.  No, these are the men and women you need to grab by the horns, wrestle them to the ground, and say “You will rest in the sustaining power of the Lord!  You will stop working and will trust that God will continue working without you!”  Whether they realize it or not, these men and women have just as many needs for sabbatical refresh as the person openly confessing they are running on fumes.

Your church will not fold if your pastor goes on sabbatical.  If you think that it will, either 1.) You are serving a VERY small God who can’t go 3 months without your pastor saving the day for Him or 2.) Your church is extremely immature in its heart for ministry that you wouldn’t have enough people to step up to take care of the basic needs of ministry for 3 months.  And if #1 is true of you, #2 will naturally be true as well, and vice versa.  We serve a HUGE God, he can handle your church if your pastor goes off the radar for a few months.  Be obedient to God as leaders in your church and allow your pastor to be renewed in a way only an extended sabbatical time can.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Observations from Visiting Different Churches this Summer

Observations from Visiting Different Churches this Summer

I’ve been on a full sabbatical this summer.  It has been an enriching, rejuvenating, and much needed time.  One aspect of my sabbatical was that I visited different churches each Sunday.  This has been a great eye-opening experience for me.

I don’t have all the answers, but it certainly raised some good questions.  Namely, if we sat down at a table with Jesus and came up with a blueprint for what church should look like, would our contemporary model be what we come up with?  Obviously not.  And that’s not to throw stones at any of the churches I visited, or to say that mine would be the answer, because it certainly isn’t either.  But it’s a question that we need to ask and keep asking and keep rethinking as we strategize and plan our ministries.  Here is a list of what I learned and observed this summer from my church visiting, some of these are more deeper than others.  Disclaimer:  I am wired to see what we can improve on rather than what we are doing well.  I find it to be more productive for producing effective change.  I’m not trying to be overly critical here.  There were good things I saw too, but that’s not really the purpose of this list:

  • Being new to a church is an uncomfortable feeling, and I’m a pastor who has spent his whole life in church.  I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it is for someone who has never been to church before in their life.
  • New people like to sit in the back, on the ends of rows.  It is makes it difficult when these seats are unavailable to them.
  • Most people in churches do not sing, or they sing very quietly.
  • With a small number of exceptions, sermons aren’t super interesting or memorable.
  • For the most part, the strategy for a new person to connect into the community of a church is this:  1. Go to a service, 2. Enjoy it / Learn from it, 3. come back, 4. join a small group, event, or service group which is where you’ll A. build friendships, B. grow deeper, and/or C. impact the community.  I look at this progression and wonder if this is the best way?  It seems like a lot of steps to take to get to the “end goal”, and that first step is really impersonal.  That’s the thing I noticed over and over, with a small number of exceptions.
  • Churches are very segregated racially.  The vast number of churches are either 99.9% white or 99.9% black.  This is a subject that I will likely post a separate, longer blog on in order to do it justice.  I’m still wrestling with the best way to articulate this as it’s something God has been weighing heavier and heavier on my heart over the years (and is at it’s heaviest point right now!) and is something I want to communicate in a way that is effective and helpful, not condemning or judgmental.  The book Divided By Faith ruined me on this issue a few years ago and God has only intensified this conviction in me as years have progressed.  I strongly recommend that you read this book if you want to get understanding and grow in this area.  Props to Kingdom Life Church for being a good mix of blacks and whites.
  • I found this randomly funny:  White churches all serve coffee and snacks.  Black churches don’t.
  • I was excited about the idea of video venues.  After visiting a couple, my excitement has lessened.  The jury is still out for me on them.

For now, I just want to leave my observations as observations.  I hope they cause you to ask good questions when it comes to the effectiveness of the local church to reach people who don’t know Jesus and to take Christians deeper in their walks with him.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Theology

 

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A Good Post for Valentine’s Day

I found this video a few days ago and thought it fitting to share on Valentine’s Day:

I blogged on marriage a few months ago and posted a sermon I did on the difficulties of marriage as Jen and I shared difficulties in our own marriage in a Sunday morning sermon.  I think anytime we can be reminded that true romantic love is a choice/commitment, not a feeling, it is needed…And that it is selfless, not selfish, it is needed.  And that God demonstrated that selfless commitment by choosing to offer his love to you and to me through his death on the cross, which I’m sure didn’t feel very good.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Year in Review, 9 days late…

The Year in Review, 9 days late…

It’s fitting that my year in review would come 9 days after New Year’s.  As I reflect back on my first real attempt to be a blogger, I realize this is the type of blogger I am.  When I started out in July, I thought I’d be posting a couple times a week, or at least once a week.  Fast forward and I am posting around a once a month!  I post when I get inspired.  And then only when I have time.  Which between the two definitely dwindles down my opportunities.  I think good blogs that post frequently are ones that have a scheduled goal they are setting out to blog about, like when my blog-friend Ivy blogged through reading the Bible as a non-believer in 2010.  Read the Bible every day, blog about it = regular blogging.  Same goes for sports bloggers.  Your team plays a game, blog about it = regular blogging.  I thought I could do this with my sermons each Sunday, but the videos are never uploaded in time for when I am inspired/have time early in the week, and I don’t like doing a blog post without the video link, so this just hasn’t happened as often as I’d first intended.  All in all though, I really have enjoyed blogging the posts that I have, and I do enjoy keeping score of which blogs garner the most hits the day they are posted.  For my blog year in review, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite blogs that you may have missed.  Since I blog soooo sporadically, I figure it’s easy you could have missed a few of these gems (sarcasm doesn’t always come across well in text), so I thought I’d start your new year out with some reruns:

11.24.11 Being a Dad = Science Fiction – This was the winner for most hits in a day.  Makes me feel great about my writing abilities.  You only click on things where videos and photos of my cute baby are involved.

10.24.11 The Elephant in the Church Room: Homosexuality – I figured this would be a hot topic and it was.  A close second for most hits in a day.  I was grateful for the interaction I received at first, but when I posted a reply, the conversation ended.  I would love for someone to click, read, and continue the dialogue as I raised some questions that I’d love to hear reaction to.

9.8.11 NFL Prophecy – Fun to look back on my NFL picks.  All I have to say is it is a good thing I don’t bet on sports or the Eagles would have made me a very broke man.  But hey, I did pick the Lions to be the #6 seed in the playoffs, which they were, which has to be worth something right?

8.30.11 Why I Believe in God.  (hint: it’s not because of the Bible) – Look at my provocative title.

My new year’s resolution: Shorter blogs.  More blogs.  Pick my nose less.  Happy New Year.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized, Wisecracks

 

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Being a Dad = Science Fiction

Being a Dad = Science Fiction

Well I became a dad on Monday, November 21st, at 4:12pm with the birth of our beautiful daughter Lexi Hope Filipiak, weighing in at 9lb 7oz, 22″.  The thing about being a dad that is the most eye-opening for me is trying to wrap my head around the concept that this human life came from Jen and I’s bodies, yet we had nothing to do with the development of the process.  As Jen’s pregnant stomach grew over the months , we would talk about how fascinating it is that this new human being is miraculously coming together, yet it isn’t as if Jen was ever consciously making any of Lexi’s body parts grow or function.

I do not use the word “miraculous” loosely here.  Having a child makes me realize the miracle, straight from God’s hand, that birth really is.  We often look to God to do miracles in our lives and if He doesn’t do them, we declare Him to be a weak God, a bad God, or a non-existent God.  I’ve talked to numerous atheists, agnostics, and doubting Christians over the years who tell me if God would do a miracle for them, that they would believe in Him.  Well I have an announcement to make:  He just did one on Monday, and her name is Lexi.  As you may have figured out by now, this wasn’t his first time using this trick.

When I think about how God chose for human life to be regenerated, it sounds like something from a bizarre science fiction movie.  In fact, it sounds weirder than anything from a science fiction.  Imagine you did not know how human life generated and some9thone explained to you how it begins with a yogurt like substance and an egg…these two things are mixed together and hokus pokus, a mini human starts growing from within the mother’s belly.  Anyone getting shades of the Alien movie at this point?  Yeah, it’s that weird.  That fictitious sounding.  That miraculous (thankfully with a better result than in the movie).

Its hair develops.  Its skin shade.  Its face shape.  Its lungs.  Its eyes.  Its brain.  Its tiny little fingernails. Its personality.

Makes you wonder what actually makes a “miracle” a miracle by our definition.  Imagine humans being were formed in some other way, in a way that made more sense, a way that was less awe-inspiring.  Let’s say new humans were actually generated in a factory, or online (maybe you could print them out somehow?).  And this is the way every human was created for all of time.  Then one day, out of the blue, this yogurt substance and this microscopic egg got mixed together and from them a new microscopic human starting forming all on its own… and it grew inside a woman’s belly!!!  And this adult human walked around with this baby human living inside of her!  With a fleshy tube connecting its new body to her adult body!  And whatever she ate was fed to the new human.  And then one day this new human came out of the adult human!  Its cord gets cut and now, all-of-a-crazy-sudden, this new human is breathing and eating and living and pooping on its own!  Not to mention you don’t need to go to the grocery store, it drinks MILK right from the MOTHER and doesn’t need to be taught how to do this…Who made that up?  Milk coming out of an adult human?  Whoever thought of that needs to grow up.  How ridiculous…no one is going to believe this.  The baby pops out fully functional, without conscious thought from its parents…are you ____-ing kidding me?!  And then after this they flew to Saturn, met some ninja Wookies, and played badminton with Spock.  If this actually happened within a world where humans were factory-built, we would all definitely point to this one-time new human birth as a MIRACLE.  We’d say there must be some kind of supernatural being / God behind this nonsensical explanation of how the trillions of intricacies of human life come together so automatically.

But because this happens every day, in every town, we say it’s no big deal.

There’s no God behind this.

If God wrote my name in the clouds with purple fire, then yes, I’d believe in Him.  But a baby’s birth = common place.  I want some purple fire or you don’t exist God.

There’s no God behind the sun rising every morning to give us the light and heat we need for existence.  The sun, dude, that is so easy to explain, come on, we see it every day.  Now if the sun starting bouncing around the sky and raining blue elephants down, who shot doughnut holes out of their trunks, and had messages on their sides that read in neon lights, “God is real, turn to Jesus”, well THEN of course I’d believe, because THAT would be a miracle.  But the sun?  I see that every day.  Not impressed.

I think it’s time we start being impressed with God’s miracles.  With the gift of life.  With the sun.  With snowflakes, like my Lexi, so beautiful, trillions of them, yet none is a replica of another.  With the rain.  With the stars.  With seeds and fruit.  With the butts of lightning bugs…(come on God, you’re just showing off on that one)

And of course, as all brand new parents will say a hearty “Amen” to, with coffee beans.  Oh dear Lord, we thank for this wonderful miracle!!!

Psalm 139:13-18  For you created my inmost being;
        you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
        your works are wonderful,
        I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
        when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
 your eyes saw my unformed body.
        All the days ordained for me
        were written in your book
        before one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
        How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
        they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake,
        I am still with you.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Theology, Uncategorized

 

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John 3:16 is Overrated

I had a great time at Crossroads’ Grand Opening Sunday this past Sunday.  I ran in Lansing’s half marathon (read my blog on it) prior to preaching, which made for quite an adventure (got to church with 8 minutes to spare before the service started!), but really the whole morning was an exciting rush.  We packed the house at Crossroads and had two people commit their lives to Christ (What does that even mean?… read on…)

In doing a Grand Opening and in doing a lot of promotion for it, it puts me in a unique situation as to deciding what to preach on.  I know there will be a lot of new people there, and many of these people will not have a relationship with Christ, so this opportunity is a great one.  This really got me thinking, “What is the Gospel?”  What is the Gospel really?  I grew up being taught that the Gospel is a prayer you pray to ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, then essentially you receive a ticket to heaven (see picture at right…you can get your own card at getoutofhellfree.com ).  It was never said exactly this way, but this is what was implied and essentially it’s how I shared the Gospel with my non-Christian friends.  Time and time again, my friends would pray this prayer, but I would see zero fruit in their lives.  In fact, I’d ask them about it and they were confused as to what I was even talking about.  I began to wonder, “Why isn’t the Gospel working!?”… but as I read more of the Bible for myself, and in my adult life continued to share Jesus with those who don’t have a relationship with him, I realized that while John 3:16 is a great verse, it all by itself is not the Gospel.  In fact, there is a conversation Jesus has with his disciples in Luke 9:18-25 that discusses this very issue.  A very very rough paraphrase of it is this…

Jesus: Disciples, who do people say I am?

Disciples: They say you’re a prophet or a great teacher/spiritual person.

Jesus: What about you?  What do you believe?

Disciples: We believe John 3:16!

Jesus: Great, that’s key.  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, it’s only the first step, you must not stop there… there’s so much more, let me explain…

And that is what my sermon from Sunday is on:

 
 

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Prepping. Different than ‘Preppy’.

Sorry for the delay in posts, I know your days have been grim and miserable without them.  I overlooked how things fall in my schedule and am speaking 3 times in 4 days, as well as promoting our Grand Opening this Sunday, so needless to say my time is at a premium right now!  I’d love to have you come out to any of the 3 things I’m prepping for:

Thursday the 15th Theology on Tap at Tavern on the Square, 6:30-8:00pm, topic: Why Do Bad Things Happen? / Why is Their Evil in the World?

Saturday the 17th LEAD Event at Riverview Church, topic: Biblical Principles for Handling Conflict, 9am-2pm

Sunday the 18th Crossroads Church Grand Opening, 11am – check out these sweet mailers I and a few others counted out 20,000 of into piles of 100 for the post office yesterday… it was very fun:

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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