by Mike Durbin
PLYMOUTH, MI – God has blessed Michigan Baptist Churches with gifted and loving pastors, and we are grateful for each one. October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Please take some time to express your love and appreciation to your pastor (and his family). A simple web search with the words: “Pastor Appreciation Month” will result in a variety of ways to express appreciation to your pastor.
I want to share an idea that may be an incredible blessing to your pastor - especially if he has not really gotten away from the demands of ministry in recent years. It’s called the “Sabbatical.” I like to think of a Sabbatical as a sustained, mutually agreed upon time away from the demands of daily ministry for the pastor to rest, reflect, and refresh personally. Our BSCM Staff has helped two pastors this year take Sabbaticals by filling the pulpit while their pastor was on Sabbatical. Recently, one of them shared his experience with us, and with his permission, I want to share it with you.
“Sabbatical, the best gift I’ve received in years. It has not only undoubtedly prolonged my time in ministry, but it’s also helped my marriage and family life as well. I cannot recall how many times I’ve heard people say or ask me in the past couple of years, 'Are you taking your vacation days?’ or ’Are you taking a sabbath?’ I would always respond, ‘What’s a vacation?’ or ‘I try to.’"
In my mind I didn’t think I could get away. There was always too much work to do, as there was no one else who could do it. But if I am being honest, I really didn’t trust anyone to do anything. So, I made excuses, and I worked, and I worked to the point of just exhaustion. To the point of being burned out and ready to walk at any time. I would have kept going too, just because it’s who I am and how I was raised. I am a workaholic, just like my dad. But it wasn’t till a family crisis arose and I reached out for help with that and then it happened. I was asked a simple little question, ‘But how are you doing?’ ‘Pastor, how are you doing?’ Normally I would have said, ‘Living the dream,’ but for some reason, this time I was honest, brutally honest. I just spilled my guts.
Next thing I knew I was on sabbatical. I had never been on a sabbatical, and didn’t even know how to “sabbatical” for that matter. But I will tell you that this time away has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. To be honest, the only way that I can compare it is Adam walking with God in the garden. It was just me and God, with no agenda other than just spending time with Him. I wasn’t in His Word, in silence in solitude, or in some other discipline to get something, or for sermon prep, or for some lesson I had to give. It was just to be with Him, to rekindle my first love, to realign my heart and desires to His.
I believe that I had become theologically arrogant because all I did was work. Studying the scriptures for sermons, for lessons and for knowledge, but with a void of a relationship and connection over time to the author created an arrogance in me that made me vulnerable to spiritual warfare. It was subtle at first, but over time the damage it was creating was being felt and seen by everyone but myself. Relationships were deteriorating, but because I was theologically or biblically correct, I kept pushing forward. See you can be theologically correct, and still be a jerk and still end up on the losing side. That’s where I was.
This sabbatical has been a true blessing and will be added to our regular church calendar for staff from here on out. I just wish that every single one of my brothers in ministry could be able to benefit like I have these past few weeks. Just the ability alone to step away in absolute freedom to reconnect with God, and to work on specific areas of your spiritual walk or other areas you may be lacking in is invaluable. It is a tool that every church and ministry should have in their toolbox available to their leadership teams.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.