Digging Deeper

Unearthing the surpassing riches of Christ

On the Eve of My 10-week Sabbatical

I am beginning a 10-week sabbatical today with today’s primary goal being setting an outline for my 10-weeks. Here is a letter I sent to my congregation about my sabbatical.

Being on the verge of a Sabbatical (as was announced last Sunday), I wanted to send out one more describing what a sabbatical is and what I plan to do.

Our denomination encourages churches to grant pastors a sabbatical every seven years, something NLICC has attempted to do in the past. The PCA describes a sabbatical like this:

In accordance with the biblical principal [sic] of rest and refreshment exemplified in the Sabbath, a Sabbatical leave might be defined as an extended time of paid planned rest and renewal during which a minister seeks personal and professional enrichmentSabbatical leaves should be spent in rest, reading, study, and/or in other activities or ministries prayerfully designed to refresh and encourage a minister in his walk with Christ.

Other pastors have found them very beneficial to their ministry. The PCA adds, “Many ministers have returned to their congregations with renewed energy, spiritual vision, and revitalized effectiveness.” I am seeking this same kind of revitalization during my own sabbatical. Just to be clear, I am in no way discouraged or frustrated in my ministry at NLIC, quite the opposite … I feel like things are going better than they have ever gone before. Still, there are certain areas I would like to grow.

I have a very purposeful goal for my sabbatical this year – to complete the research for the Doctor of Ministry I’ve been working on for the last few years. So, I desire to write out some 300 pages over the summer and come back to New Life in Christ at the beginning of September with a valuable ministry to the congregation and other congregations around the nation and even the world.

I started working on my doctorate in 2011 and the process has been nothing short of transformational to me. I have learned so much about God, so much about myself, and so much about living by faith. All of my research and work is supposed to culminate in a gigantic project that can be used at our church and others around the world.

My project has been focused on working with men to be strong in spirit. Isn’t that something we all crave? So many of the men that I know want to be better in so many areas of life. I want to focus on a man’s growth in spirit, the source for all of his life and thinking. Most, if not all the men I know want to be more fervent in spirit (Acts 18:25; Romans 12:11), refreshed in their spirit (1 Cor 16:18; 2 Cor7:13), and to have a humble (Matt 5:3), gentle (1 Cor 14:21; Gal 6:1) spirit that demonstrates power, love, and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). These qualities are description of the spirit of manhood, as we see in the life of Jesus Christ himself. As he grew, the Bible tells us that he was “strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80). How do we get there? How do we draw upon God’s resources of God’s Spirit to meet the demands of our day? These are the questions I want to answer. More than that, my aim is to have a process I can bring men through as they pursue more strength in spirit.

It is for this purpose that the session has discussed the possibility of granting me a sabbatical over the last couple years, and this summer was the right time. I am very thankful to the church for the opportunity to take 10 weeks away this summer (June 23-August 31).

In addition to my project, my family plans to take a week away for our summer camping vacation. I plan to spend evenings with my family (something I rarely get to do), take Julie out for our anniversary, and do a few fun father-child things I should do with them, but do not have the time. I also plan to begin exercising more regularly again.

For various reasons, Julie and I decided to stay in Fredericksburg for the sabbatical, so I won’t be far away. I plan to visit different churches in the area in order to see friends and satisfy my curiosity about other churches in the area. I plan to be at New Life evening services most weeks.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is to be away from active ministry. I love you and I really enjoy all of our time together. In my mind, the only justification for this is in the hope that I can return to the church as a better pastor and person. I hope to use these 10 weeks to draw closer to Jesus and gain a better grasp on the scriptures. My earnest prayer is that when I return I can better provide the pastoral leadership necessary to continue our vision of building the kingdom through training leaders.

Please pray for me. The church is giving me a tremendous gift – 10 weeks of paid time to research and write. You all gave my family such a wonderful and surprising departure gift, I don’t know what to say (except “Thank You”!). The gift was helpful and should help with some of the expenses of the project along with accomplishing some of my personal and family goals for the trip.

A sabbatical is a time of rest, yes, but it is not a vacation. For me it is a time of strategizing for the spiritual warfare we face and the necessity of strengthening men to serve God in the 21st century by walking in the joy of the Spirit.

Finally, please pray for the church and Pastor Doug. During Doug’s last trip to Israel, I realized how I could not keep up with everything. I really needed others to carry his load. Thankfully many did. We have so much going on, it takes a whole congregation to ensure everybody receives the care they need. And as you pray for Doug, if you something that needs to be done, just do it. I am sure he will appreciate it.

Finally, I plan to blog about my progress on my doctorate and some of my activities and thoughts. You can follow me on seanwhitenack.wordpress.com.

While I expect to see many of you this summer, I really look forward to reconnecting with you in September, seeing the great things the Lord does over the summer, and launching into our next nine years together.

Faithfully Yours in Building the Kingdom,
Pastor Sean

 

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June 23, 2014 - Posted by | Church, Communion with God, Men's Ministry, My Life, New Life in Christ Church, Pastoral Leadership, PCA, Sabbatical | , ,

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