Sabbatical: The Missing Link for Churches and Pastors

Part 1 of 4

Has anyone noticed the toll that modern ministry is taking on our pastors? Pastoral fatigue and burn out is costing the church more than money; it’s costing lives. More pastors and leaders are leaving ministry today than in the history of the Christian Church. I know because I almost became one of the statistics.

About two years ago, I began to experience depression for no particular reason. I felt discouraged, defeated, depressed, and doubtful things could get much better. I began to withdraw from people. Small tasks seemed huge. Everything took so much mental and physical energy that I didn’t know how I could continue in the ministry.

Follow that with a TIA (mini-stroke). Add to that my wife’s cancer. Then imagine the church beginning to decline. If anything negative could happen, it did.

Fortunately, at the recommendation of my doctor and in response to my health needs church elders granted me a 6-month Sabbatical.

My story has a happy ending. Our sabbatical did great things for Marcy and me. We returned to ministry refreshed, re-inspired, ready to serve as though we had just begun ministry. I recovered the strength and stamina to re-enter with new priorities in place and a replenished store of serotonin.

Read carefully the following text:

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29–31, ESV)

The Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah said that even the youths and young men will be weary and fall. How much more the older men and women? Notice the answer? They who WAIT upon the Lord. Linger with the Lord. Take time to be with Him. They shall renew, mount up, run, and walk unhindered. That’s the kind of pastor or leader I would want to lead me, to model life for me.

Most churches don’t have any idea what’s happening to their pastors as years of people-ministry and spiritual warfare take their toll. So when their shepherds “burn out,” many churches simply replace the pastor with another pastor and before long find that he too needs replacing. Is that God’s plan for those gifted people He gives to the body of Christ to build it up? Is that the future He has ordained for churches—a constant stream of committees on the search to replace tired and hurt servants?

Let’s take a closer look in Part 2.

©2012, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

First published by permission in The Witness, Winter 2012 by Advent Christian General Conference USA.

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