Yes, Pastor, You Also Need a Sabbath Day

Kim Martinez photoPastor Jeff is at it again—this is his third week in a row without a break.

Monday is his day off, and he takes it. But most weeks, it looks like this:

1. Get up early to “enjoy” time with the kids (who are not morning people and therefore not very enjoyable).

2. Then, once the kids are off, he sits to have quiet time. Lately, whenever he opens the Scriptures, he sees options for his next sermon and starts jotting them down.

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3. The morning quickly fades, and the “honey do” list needs attention. Jeff mows the lawn, fixes the gutter and trims the hedges.

4. To ease stress on the family and give his wife a break, Jeff decides to make dinner.

5. The kids need shepherding through chores and homework and, at long last, it is time for real rest.

6. But it is almost bedtime, and tomorrow morning is staff meeting. Jeff takes a few moments to collect his thoughts for Tuesday and finally falls asleep.

Does this sound familiar?

Sometimes a Sabbath is the one thing that pastors go weeks without.

Why do we let that happen? Some will talk to you about the tyranny of the urgent. In truth, however, we need to look at the reason we need Sabbath to begin with.

We work constantly. Why?

  • We think things will fall apart if we don’t.
  • We are very busy justifying our existence.

Entrepreneurial and/or service jobs are particularly caught in this trap. We are doing what we love, but after a time, we also have a real sense that if we don’t do things, they won’t get done.

The problem with this is that we tend to forget who is really in charge of the universe. When you take a Sabbath, you are saying to yourself and God, "God is really in charge of the universe. There is nothing He can’t handle, and I work because He works through me. If I let go, the world will continue to spin."

Here is something that might help. 

I first learned the concept of Sabbath when I was working as a pastor with four small children and attending seminary. I read Lynne Baab’s book Sabbath Keeping (the best I’ve ever read).

God impressed on me that I needed to take a Sabbath and stop using every waking moment trying to make a dent. I decided that every week, I would take time to think through where I was “striving” and not do it from 4 p.m. Saturday (when I got out of school) until Sunday evening. (I still had to do Sunday morning, but I was doing the best with what I had.)

  • Sometimes I didn’t do household chores. If it was “work” to switch the laundry, I let it sit.
  • Every week, I stopped studying for that time period.
  • Some weeks, I turned off the phone, laptop, etc.
  • Every week, I chose not to strive for at least 12, if not 24, hours of rest.

One week I hit a snag. I had a paper due Monday night (I worked Mondays)—a big paper that would take time to write. But since God is God and He is in charge, I decided to have a Sabbath and turn in the paper late if need be.

When I came off the Sabbath, I still don’t really know what happened, but a paper that should have taken me six hours to write was done in two hours, and I got the best grade I’d ever received from that teacher. God made up the difference!

So, what are you striving at this week? What would it look like if you laid it down, even for a partial Sabbath?

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master of theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at www.deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.

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