It has been harder than I expected. In the fall, I announced to our staff and leadership that January would be a dead month. We would plan nothing extracurricular for our church family. No extra meetings, no fellowships, nothing.
We are on the backside of a busy and challenging season within our church. Over the last twelve months our campus has been dismantled and put back together through a building project that expanded and remodeled our sanctuary, added an addition to our children’s building, and overhauled our landscaping and parking area.
Throughout the last year nothing has been normal and everything we have done has been trickier than usual. As a result, we are tired. The staff is tired and our people are tired. We need rest. We don’t need rest only because we feel like it, we need rest because God said so. God built times of mandated rest into the ancient Jewish calendar. In addition to weekly Sabbaths, the feasts provided regular times of rest for people to re-focus their attention on God and his works of salvation.
Making time to rest and re-focus takes work and commitment. Here are some lessons that I’ve learned along this process:
Say no to good things.
Rest requires trust. Trust that the world will go on just fine without us and that God will remain in control. When I decided that we would not have a fellowship luncheon for guests and potential new members in January I did so trusting that God could and would care for those people and that he would help us to minister to their needs.
Make “no” your go to answer.
Yes, this seems negative, but saying no to one thing means saying yes to another. When I said “yes” to rest I could no longer say yes to everything else. Over the past few months when January has been mentioned in meetings or conversations, my responses have begun with no and then an explanation of why the answer had to be no.
Make no exceptions.
When the door gets cracked for that one thing, it will remain cracked for other things. Either rest matters or it doesn’t.
Don’t be a jerk.
Be firm and be committed, but don’t be a jerk. Remember that people who want to plan things in your church have the best intentions. As pastor, you have a responsibility to diagnose the needs of your church that it may not even know exist. If you have diagnosed the need for focused rest, then explain that carefully and often. Stick to your guns, but do not be a jerk.
Model rest before your people.
If rest matters, then make sure your people see rest as a priority in your life. Jesus rested. Sabbath is a command of God in the Old Testament, not for God, but for man. Take time off. Turn your phone off. Don’t be a hypocrite.
It is ironic that resting would be so difficult. Resting is not prized in our society or in our churches. I have had to work hard to carve out time for our church to rest. But if the church is to be a counter-cultural refuge then it must eschew the constant connectedness of culture and occasionally disconnect from busyness to reconnect with the God who created us.
Featured image credit, edited for size.