So, when are you coming back from your sabbatical? I already came back. You’re already done? Yes, I was on sabbatical for three months from March 1st until May 31st. Really?
I’ve had this conversation with more people than I’m willing to admit since returning on June 1st. Yes, my sabbatical is over. I really was gone for three months. I know that you missed me. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Ha! Seriously though, thank you so much for the privilege of being able to take a sabbatical leave. I’ve met a few pastors who never get a sabbatical and I have to wonder what other means God uses in their life to maintain the critical separation of their identity and their pastoral role. For I have found that when your pastoral role becomes your identity, then the leaven of selfish ambition can easily permeate the bread that you break to feed the hungry. So thank you again for the blessed gift of a sabbatical.
While on sabbatical, I accomplished most of my objectives. As planned, I began the practice of praying through the book of Psalms once a month; praying them in the mornings and in the evenings. I plan to continue this practice for the rest of 2016. I started praying the Psalms because of something I read that intrigued me. If you want to know what it was, just ask! I also finished reading my list of books (7 books) on grieving and discipleship and I finished reading John M. Frame’s major Systematic Theology work. Why did I want to read that doctrinal tome? Well, I do enjoy Frame’s writing but I also just wanted to challenge myself and see if I could still mentally focus like I did when I was younger but less handsome. I’m not sure how much I retained of it but I sure can focus my mind well! The one goal I did not finish was writing out my Philosophy of Ministry. I’m still working through it and it’s proving to be more arduous than I estimated.
The last thing I was able to do was attend, on Sunday mornings, 18 different churches in the San Gabriel Valley. I sometimes attended two services on a Sunday. I did this for two reasons 1) I wanted to discover what was happening in Christian-dome throughout the SGV and 2) I just wanted to do it. My parents brought me to Wintersburg Presbyterian Church when I was 7 years old and I attended that church until I was 23. I then came to Evergreen in 1990 and I’ve been here since. Yes, I’ve attended a few churches while on vacation but they were mostly churches that are affiliated with EvergreenSGV. So, I thought this was my opportunity to purposely go out of my circle of churches and attend a variety of Christian churches in our area. So, while I sabbatical I visited large churches (2,000 plus) and small ones (10 people, counting myself!), new church plants, churches that have been around for over 75 years, and churches from a variety of denominations (Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Catholic, etc.).
Overall, I was encouraged by most of them and found that most had vibrant worship and relevant, bible teaching. However, there was a X-Factor that set apart a couple of churches from all of the rest. What was that X-Factor? will write about it in my next article.
Again, thank you so much for granting me a sabbatical. I am greatly indebted to your generosity and love. Thank you.