the shape of leadership

The Case for a Sabbath Rest

The importance of God-focused downtime

Sandi Bradford on December 5, 2017

There is a current trend for ministers to take a sabbatical, often at a point of burnout in their ministry career. In some of my reading on sabbath rest, I have seen the question posed, “How can a person take a sabbatical when he or she does not know how take a regular sabbath?”

Is the avoidance of sabbath rest the reason the sabbatical is sometimes the only hope of restoring from long seasons of intense work?

As I have traveled with my husband to various ministers’ retreats and councils, I have had some interesting conversations about taking a sabbath rest. I’ve heard statements like these: There just isn’t time to take a day off. I don’t know what I would do just sitting around for a day. It’s a really intense time at my church, but when we get through this season, I will start taking a sabbath. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath.

Some of my responses have been: What are your priorities? Are you managing your time well, or do the texts and tweets and Instagrams distract you from staying on task and getting the important things done? Are you trusting God to use your efforts to extend His work as He sees fit? Are you being a good steward for the long-distance race God has called you to? Do you believe in the Old Testament principle of tithing 10 percent of your money, but not in the Old Testament principle of taking a regular sabbath rest?

God himself modeled and designed the sabbath principle.

Perhaps we forget that God himself modeled and designed the sabbath principle in creation. God implemented this principle when He rescued Abraham’s descendants out of slavery and instituted a contract with them. Sabbath rest set them apart from other nations.

God commanded the Sabbath to be a day of remembering what He had done, resting from their labor, and connecting with family and community. I think we can creatively experience those three elements in our own sabbaths.

Set aside time to reflect on God and His Work in your life, without concerning yourself with ministry-related issues. Find ways to experience personal rest and restoration — whether by enjoying a walk, a drive, a good book, gardening, golf or a nap. Spend time with family. Choose a day of the week or part of a day that works for your sabbath rest.

God as Creator and Father commanded us to have a day to be in fellowship with Him and with those close to us. He also designed us with the need for rest and creative restoration.

I believe as we ask God to help us implement the sabbath rest principle that He designed for us, we will live with more wholeness and fruitfulness in our ministries and lives.


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