If your church isn’t growing numerically or in spiritual depth or if it has been torn apart by conflict a major reason may be the neglect of Sabbath.
It’s through continual Sabbath rest that we learn to trust God, waiting on his leadership and joining his work — rather than trying to control people and situations.
Most Christians, including over 40% of pastors, do not have a weekly Sabbath day.
Our culture today makes experiencing Sabbath rest almost impossible.
We never turn the lights off. We live in a world of 24×7 work, ministry, shopping, busyness, noise, people-pleasing, media stimulation, and getting likes on our social media posts. Constantly most of us are receiving emails, text messages, phone calls, advertisements in media, and alerts on our smart phones and computers to respond to someone or do something — right now!
We don’t unplug.
We never rest.
We don’t even know how to rest. Most of us literally are not capable of pausing on the spot during a busy day, taking a deep breath as we sit still, smiling with our soul for minutes as we lean back into the loving arms of Christ.
We want to serve God, but the day flies by and we’ve forgotten that our Lord was present to love us, guide us, and give us strength.
Sabbath-keeping is medicine for our embodied souls. (See Hebrews 4 and Isaiah 58.)
When you learn Sabbath rest it cuts down your ego. It curtails your over-working and self-reliance. It cuts you off from depending on people’s praise and appreciation. It disconnects your identity from your role in ministry and work.
Doesn’t this sound fun?! It gets worse!
Keeping a Sabbath turns off your adrenaline and leaves you feeling empty and bored.(See our devotional: “Rest: Coming Off an Adrenaline High.”)
But if you take your medicine you and the people you care for can get well! By balancing quiet solitude with receiving soul care from one or more Christ’s ambassadors, you can get to the other side of restlessness and learn to enjoy the soul-rest and grace-power that go with being in Jesus’ easy yoke of intimacy with his Abba. (See my book Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke which is based on Mathew 11:25-30.)
The real fruit of keeping a Sabbath is seen in our character. When we practice Sabbath rest over time God reshapes our personality so we…
- Are interruptible. Having space in our schedule and soul helps us not to be irritated with people’s needs but to respond with patience and tenderness.
- Lead fruitful meetings. Instead of pushing for productivity from others we partner, encourage, affirm, and appreciate others so that their work is a blessing.
- Give grace not guilt. Our sermons or Bible studies don’t put pressure or judgment on people — we inspire them to love and serve God with cheerfulness.
- Bubble up with joy. When we’re filled with God’s compassion we can respond to criticism with kindness.
- Don’t try to control outcomes. For instance, if you’re a church elder taking a Sabbatical year then you step aside and trust God to lead through the other elders rather than showing up at meetings or getting involved in elder email discussions.
- Resist gossip, scapegoating, and sarcasm. If others engage in a negative conversation we bring a prayerful presence and edifying words.
- Are salt and light. When we’re truly submitting to the Lord and resting in his love we add God-flavor and God-color to our neighbors.
May the Lord help us all to learn to enjoy weekly Sabbath-rest so that our churches will be healthier and we can effectively love God and our neighbors.
By Bill Gaultiere