This year I have been given the gift of a sabbatical by the church I work for. It was not time off to put my feet up and do nothing, as some of my church members have jokingly tried to suggest, but a time to create space to spend more time in the presence of God and listen to what he wanted to say to me about life and ministry.
I had a number of things that I wanted to do during my time out - one of which was to climb a mountain. Although I hadn’t decided to do it for any particular spiritual reason – it was more of a personal challenge – what surprised me was the amount God spoke to me about and dealt with in me as I walked. Together, God and I reflected on the direction future ministry may take, on the need to keep an eye out for the things that may trip me up and, as the route I took became steeper and harder, on the need to stop from time to time to take a breather and look back at distance travelled and celebrate what has been achieved.
As I get back into a normal life and ministry there are a few things that God, through his Spirit, is continuing to remind me of.
Firstly that I am not as vital in his plans and purposes as I sometimes think I am. It is very easy as a church leader to think we are central to all God wants to do in a place and sometimes, as a result, place too much pressure and responsibility on our own shoulders. One of the joys for me at New Wine’s National Gatherings this year was to catch up with members of my church and hear all about what God had been up to in their lives and the good things he has been doing in and through them, none of which had anything to do with me!
Secondly I was reminded of the need to take regular time out to invest in my own relationship with God, to spend time in his presence, listen to what he has to say and to make sure that I am ministering out of a place where God has able to invest in me.
The person who has been arranging our Sunday teaching while I have been away has chosen the passage in Mark 9:2-13, Jesus' Transfiguration, for me to speak about for my first sermon back. As I begin to think through the passage, it is a reminder of the importance of being drawn away from things to spend time in Jesus' presence. Sometimes that happens unexpectedly and is completely prompted by God, but it strikes me that it is also possible to plan time to go up a mountain because it is a good thing to do and simply by creating the space you create time for God to speak into your life.
Member of the New Wine International Support Group
On behalf of
Head of Ministry, New Wine International
P.S. Why not begin this new term by encouraging the men in your church to attend one of the New Wine Men's Days? I promise they will come back to your church fired up!