Sabbatical: A Letter to West Franklin
West Franklin Family,
You know the “Big Ten.” Not the inferior college athletic conference up North (grin). The Ten Commandments. That “Big Ten.” I am guessing many of you can name a few.
- Don’t use God’s name in cursed way.
- Don’t have sexual relations with anyone but your own spouse.
- Don’t steal anything.
- Don’t kill anybody.
Think about this with me. What would happen to my career if I committed murder? What if your pastor killed someone? What if I was arrested for stealing money from the church? What would you think of me? Or, what if you learned I had committed adultery against Katie? What would that do to my pastoral credibility with you? What would it do to my family? Needless to say, it would not be good for Matt Pearson if I was found guilty of any one of these.
Have you ever thought about the fourth commandment? It’s the one given the most attention (see Exodus 20:8-11 & Deuteronomy 5:12-15). It’s the one about keeping the Sabbath. The one about stopping. The one about rest. The one about reminding yourself that God is in control and is at work whether you are around or not. It’s the one where our loving Father calls us to be still and know that He is, indeed, God. It’s the commandment that calls us to be forced to lie down in green pastures. It’s the one where we are given the freedom to breathe. Where God gives us permission to go ahead and take the nap on the park bench.
Why is it that I would be removed from my pastoral role if I murdered, stole money, or committed adultery; but be encouraged to keep being busy and never paused to be still with God? In other words, why is it that some commandments are big time “no no’s,” but others can be broken without a second thought? Though breaking a few may be “okay” with us, they aren’t with God. The Big Ten are put here for our good. All of them. In fact, even Jesus said, “the Sabbath was made for man.”
To protect its ministers from being guilty of breaking this all important fourth commandment, the leadership of Brentwood Baptist Church (BBC) is gifting me with what is called a sabbatical. In fact, every five years each full-time minister on staff at BBC is given this gift. Because BBC leadership believes recharging, refueling, refreshing, and refilling is absolutely critical for the welfare of both pastor and church, they are sending me “away” for a while. For my good. For your good. Because we believe what God says is true and what is best.
Beginning Monday, October 5th through Sunday November 8th, I will be off the grid. I have plans. I have things I hope to do. More than anything, I am going to rest. I am going to replenish my soul. Why? So I can be a more complete man. So I can be a more complete husband. So I can be a more complete dad. So I can be a more complete pastor.
I have been pastoring now for almost twenty years. I have never enjoyed a sabbatical. In fact, truth be told, I haven’t done a good job of taking a weekly Sabbath – much less a month for the purpose of rest and replenishment. Mike Glenn tells us campus pastors all the time, “If you aren’t serving out of the overflow of your relationship with Jesus, you are no good to us.” I don’t EVER not want to be good for you, West Franklin.
What does this mean for you?
For one, I hope in the middle of November you will have a more complete pastor than you have right now. A man who has been filled with the goodness of God in his soul. Other than that, not much will change. I leave you in the hands of the most efficient and competent and loving and gifted staff team I have ever had the privilege of working with. Dave Kruse will do the preaching. As you know, he is an amazing and anointed preacher. When I get back you will probably wish my sabbatical were longer. I’m serious. He’s a really good preacher. I want this time to be a reminder to me, the staff team, and you – the church – that everybody is dispensable. God doesn’t need me to do His work and you don’t need me either. His kingdom will come with or without Matt Pearson. He doesn’t need any of us. By His grace, when He so allows, He chooses to use us for His purposes.
Now. What do I need from you?
First, pray for me. Pray that the purpose of the Sabbath would be realized in my heart and soul. Pray that I have unhurried time with God, myself, my wife, and my children. Pray that I would be a man overflowing with the goodness and love and mercy and grace of God upon my return.
Second, lean on your staff team. When I say I will be “off the grid,” I mean it. I am going to intentionally be unavailable. No texts. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing. Not because I don’t want to. Not because I don’t love you. But actually, believe it or not, because I do love you. As I have already said, we have a staff team who is more than capable of shepherding you well. Let them. They are eager to serve you. And, as many of you know, they are really-really good at it.
For the next five Saturdays, in place of these letters, you will be receiving a prayer from me for you. Pray them with me as I pray for you.
The Father didn’t give the Big Ten to hurt us. Nope. He put them there so that we might thrive as His children. I long to thrive with you.
Your Pastor Loves You,