8 Minute Read

IMG_8147My last Sunday at Westside Baptist Church was a few days ago. I started emptying my study on Monday (Memorial Day) and finished yesterday. I am now officially between jobs and will be so for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

I’ve heard of other pastors taking sabbaticals and have often wished that I could do so. There are specific stresses of pastoring (much of which is behind the scenes that no one will know about) that can empty a pastor’s emotional tank. If that happens, his job demands that he continue to give out what he does not have to give. But this means that he is going to eventually lead and love badly.

It is in the best interest of the church, the pastor, and his family that he is allowed to get away to get recharged. After all, Jesus also frequently got away from ministry in order to experience silence, solitude, and times of prayer.

Luke 5:15-16 (CSB): “But the news about him spread even more, and large crowds would come together to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.”

There is something very healing about getting away from the stresses and responsibilities of ministry for awhile. After all, we can only give away what we have. If we aren’t careful, we may end up “dead” inside.

A great illustration of this is the Dead Sea. When Kim and I visited Israel last summer, I remember standing on the top of Masada and looking at the Dead Sea. The shape of the Dead Sea didn’t look like it did in the back of my Bible. It was distorted. (Click below to view a 30-second video that I took from the top of Masada.)

On our bus trip to and from Masada, we saw docks that would have allowed tourists to look down into the water of the Dead Sea. Yet, those docks were sometimes 2 or 3 football fields from the water’s edge.

What has caused the Dead Sea to go into a death spiral? The answer is simple. More water is leaving the Sea (evaporation) than is going into it (water from Jordan River being syphoned off, 10-year drought, etc.). If this goes on long enough, the Dead Sea will eventually be completely dried up. (NBCNews Article: “The Dead Sea is Dying”)

This is a ministry principle for pastors (and a general life principle for everyone else). The nature of ministry is to give out. We serve. We lead. We oversee. We organize. We troubleshoot. We listen. We empathize. We preach and teach. We counsel. Etc., etc., etc.

Oftentimes, a pastor and his wife will be invited into the hurts of so many people in the congregation. After a while, the pastor and his wife will know the hidden stories of so many people. And yet very few know what is going on in the pastor’s life or the life of his wife.

Many want to be served by the pastor, but they don’t serve him or his wife. Many want to be heard by the pastor, but they don’t listen to him or his wife or ask how they are doing … and then just listen. Many want the pastor to visit them in the hospital, but they don’t visit him or his wife when they are in the hospital. Many get upset if the pastor doesn’t shake their hand in church, but they sit in their seats and never get up to welcome the pastor and his wife to the same worship service.

It shouldn’t be this way. A pastor and his wife give and give but they risk running dry if they don’t find some way of getting filled back up. It is a blessed pastor who serves a church who realizes that as they work to bless the pastor and his wife, they are essentially enabling their pastor to get filled up so that he can serve them for a very, very long time. He’s probably never going to run dry.

In fact, I have discovered that if a church wants to express its love for me, then they should focus on loving my wife. I love my wife so much that my own emotional tank gets filled up when ladies of the church value my wife, spend time with her, listen to her, and care for her.

So, a pastor needs to be sure that he is being filled up with the same amount or more than what he’s giving out. If he doesn’t, he’s going to run dry … and bad things will happen.

That’s why Jesus regularly got away. He worked to get filled up so that He had enough to give out.

And that’s why I’m grateful that Kim and I have 3 1/2 weeks between ministries. We’re going to get recharged. We’re going to get our tanks filled. I want to begin my pastorate at the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida, with a full tank.

When I left Donaldson Baptist Church and took the pastorate of the First Baptist Church in Brooksville, Florida, I preached my final sermon at Donaldson and then preached my first sermon at FBC Brooksville the very next Sunday. I failed to take even a week off.

When I left FBC to become the pastor of Westside Baptist Church, I preached my final sermon at FBC and then preached my first sermon at Westside the very next Sunday. Once again, I failed to take even a week off.

I’m SO glad that I have a few weeks to breathe between ministries this time!

I continue to relish the fact that the Polk City FBC Deacon body is such an impressive group of godly men. I have already been in communication with the FBC staff and can’t wait to work with such a competent staff that wants to work as a team … and work with the church to eventually build the staff. I was so impressed with those in lay-leadership positions and love the fact that such men and women of competence and character are leading their various areas of ministry.

I think my ministry at FBC Polk City is going to be fun and rewarding. But, I’m so glad that Kim and I have 3 1/2 more weeks to get recharged before starting my next (and prayerfully final) ministry assignment.

But, this sabbatical isn’t going to be a lazy time. Besides packing, I’m enjoying(!) all of the extra time to spend with family, to study, and write as I get ready for God’s next chapter of our lives!

Now, it’s time for a prayer-walk…