Schedules and Sabbaticals

Schedules and Sabbaticals

Recently, I was visiting with a layperson in one of our churches who I have had much interaction with over the past twelve years. He had heard we had been re-elected to a fourth four-year term and was expressing “his condolences” as he put it, haha. He went on to say, “I bet you’ll have a pretty slow summer since you didn’t think you’d be here.” I laughed and smiled, we concluded our conversation and went on our way.

I got to thinking that what my friend said about a “pretty slow summer” is not the case. If anything, this summer has been much busier than almost any of the other twelve including moving to Billings in 2012. One main reason is that we have had the most open churches ever at one time in our tenure here — nine! The Lord has brought one pastor thus far to us — Rev. Matt Hull who has begun serving as lead pastor at Richey (MT) Alliance Church! We continue to pray for the rest of the open churches as they are each in a unique place on the pathway for calling a lead pastor.  Some are getting their search teams constituted and materials together that help form the basis for the search for a pastor; others have completed that process and we are seeking God for who He has for the particular ministry point; others have received candidate packets and are interviewing possible candidates, and one has scheduled a candidate family to come for a weekend at the end of July. The interesting thing about the open churches is how far and wide the spread is this time geographically — from Fortine, MT in the northwest to Cheyenne, WY in the far southeast; from Evanston in southwest Wyoming to Richey, MT (now filled) in northeast Montana to Chinook, MT on the Highline of Montana. It is a great responsibility and joy to work with our churches to discern who God is bringing to them to lead the respective ministries into the future. It is not an exact science, to be sure, but it is a great delight to see how God navigates all of this!

Another part of the DS role is leading district teams, serving our churches through visiting, preaching, attending board meetings, meeting with pastors, and also engaging at various National C&MA meetings. In the short term (from now till Ignite on September 25th) I’ll be attending an almost week-long set of meetings in Cleveland, OH for returning C&MA International Workers; a church conference in Birmingham, AL; return to Columbus, OH to be with our new official workers at a C&MA conference; have a Dexcom Meeting in Billings; speak at a family camp; lead the PGG leaders retreat; attend The Orchard Alliance Board meeting in Colorado Springs — stay for another church conference in Colorado Spring; attend meetings at Crown College and then lead Ignite in Bozeman. In between there I’ll be preaching at various churches, attending board meetings, and having various meetings with churches in the search process.

I don’t write these things to be like “Woo, aren’t you busy, Jonathan.” Rather I write it to say, that I get how busy ministry can be — how demanding emotionally, spiritually, and physically ministry can be. There can be a toll that you can see and there certainly can be a cost that few if any see. It’s been my observation that when this end of things comes up, people usually go into two camps — the “woe is me, I’m so busy camp” or “I am so thankful I get to serve the Lord!” I admit, I am in the latter camp.  I am so thankful to be able to serve the Lord — that He would call me and allow me to serve Him blows my mind because I know who I am and my limitations, my failings, my inadequacies, AND YET He chooses to use me — and YOU — to accomplish His will and purposes on this earth, in this place, at this time!  Each day I ask the Lord for His filling to face the things known and unknown that come my way. I write this, as Peter the Apostle would say, “to remind you” to seek the Lord each day for what is ahead.

One last thing, amid busyness and ministry, sometimes weariness can develop. Over the last number of years, the topic of sabbatical has come up in a few of our churches. Please hear me — I am happy to visit with you — and your board — regarding this topic. There are many misconceptions regarding a sabbatical that I have encountered over the years. Much more could be said, but let me just conclude with two things I’ve observed about a healthy sabbatical. One is please talk to me early in your thought process. Secondly, please plan ahead and allow me to help you help your leaders understand what a sabbatical is, what it isn’t, what the purposes are, and how you can configure one that helps the pastor and family and helps the church family.

Lori and I are thrilled to be here in the RMD! We are not limping into a fourth term mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. We are desirous of the Lord’s best for our pastors, leaders, and churches as we seek the Lord together for His blessing in seeing people come to faith in Christ and grow in maturity toward Him!