After 19 years of ministry (15 as an ordained presbyterian minister) Beth and I along with the Crossbridge elders have discerned that the summer of 2015 is an appropriate season for our family to go on a ministry sabbatical. This year Crossbridge will celebrate its 7 year anniversary. In this short period of time Crossbridge has not only established itself as a solid church but has gone on to plant two other congregations in Miami. In the fall, we will launch a vision (you will hear more about it soon) that will allow our church not only to have a greater influence in Miami but in Latin America as well. For this reason it’s important that we as a family take a much needed sabbatical.
Why a sabbatical?
Many corporations and academic institutions are now seeing the growing importance and benefits of offering a sabbatical to their leaders. According to the Bible, all work that is meaningful flows out of a place of rest. In Gen 2, where we learn that God has created us to work, we also learn that before the command to work, there is the statement that God finished his work of creation, then rested. Our work flows out of God’s rest.
What is a sabbatical?
The sabbatical is intended to give the pastor time away from the day-to-day responsibilities of ministry to pursue professional growth and revitalization through prayer, reflection, study, travel or other pursuits that would expose him to the larger work of God’s kingdom and renew him in his relationship with God.
It’s a time to “look in” for self discovery, to “look around” at the health of family and church, “look out” for new ideas, and “look up” to God for vision.
As a family, we intend to do more than just rest. Besides spending quality time with each other, we desire to seek God together, to learn together, serve together, and dream together during our sabbatical months.
In order to reach that outcome in experience and come back refreshed for the next season of ministry in Miami, we have structured our sabbatical in the following way.
1. A time to serve
- Where: Lisbon, Portugal.
- When: May 24-June 23.
- How: During our stay in Lisbon I will make myself available to planters to help them think through what a gospel centered church in their context may look like. Redeemer City to City will be hosting a mini conference June 15-16 for Portuguese and Spanish pastors/ planters with the objective of exposing them to gospel DNA. I have been asked to be one of the speakers for that gathering.
2. A time for learning
- Where: Greece, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, France
- When: June 23 - July 21.
- How: It has always been a desire of ours to be able to visit the sites of the Early Church and the Reformation. We acknowledge that we won’t be able to go to every important site on this trip, but we desire to at least visit Greece, Turkey and Rome from where most of the New Testament was written. From there, we will drive north of Rome with my parents and kids to connect with the all the culture that has come from there as well as to connect to our family’s heritage. A stop at the city of Assisi is much anticipated! From Italy we will go on to Geneva to learn about John Calvin and his time there, then to the country side of France where Calvin was born and raised, and then of course our last stop will have to be Paris -- the city of lights. I believe this experience will be extremely useful for my future years of ministry as it will allow me to gain greater insight and knowledge as I seek to study and teach the Bible faithfully to the church.
3. A time to rest
- Where: Rio de Janeiro
- When: July 24 - Aug 16. In my opinion, when Heaven comes down to Earth, the whole world will look like Rio de Janeiro. In Rio our intention is to spend time primarily with our immediate family to enjoy the city and its beauty, and to allow God to speak to us in new ways. We envision it as a time to discern God’s voice spoken during our sabbatical as we refocus for life and ministry in Miami. In Rio, we will stay at a family member’s apartment in the neighborhood of Leblon from where we will fly back home to Miami.
4. Sabbatical coaching
To coach us through our sabbatical, we have invited Pastor Robbi Fischer from Forest Hill Church in Charlotte to pray with us and to counsel us during this season. Robbi is a dear friend to Beth and me. He married us and counseled us since the time we were locked in a long distance relationship. He has a doctorate in preaching, is a counselor, and a very seasoned pastor. Our plan is to skype Robbi for 1 hour each week to process with him what we have been experiencing and learning in each of the places we will visit.
We have invited my parents to assist us with the kids. They will stay with us in a rented house in Lisbon and will stay with our children as we go to explore Greece and Turkey. We will meet them and the children in Rome where we will then proceed to travel through the northern country of Italy. From Italy we will stop in Geneva, Paris and then Lisbon where we will catch a flight down to Rio de Janeiro.
How you can journey with us
- Pray for protection - International trips can be filled with danger so pray that the Lord would keep us safe as we travel from country to country and town to town. Pray that he would protect our home and church in Miami.
- Pray for rest - We are aware that it’s easy to fill our sabbatical time with too much stuff, which may sabotage our whole experience. Pray that we would have wisdom to set boundaries even in our sabbatical so that there’s is physical rest and rest for the soul.
- Pray for vision - Pray that our experience would shed light into the future of our ministry in Miami. Pray that God would speak to us in new and creative ways. That he would use people in our lives during that time to communicate to us his will.
- Pray for bonding - Pray that we as a family would bond closer. That our marriage would be stronger, that our relationship with the girls would be tighter. That the Lord would spare us from destructive family conflict.
- Pray for new relationships to be formed - Pray that we would meet new people and that these new relationships would open new doors for the kingdom of Jesus. That through these relationships we may learn more about people and culture.
- Pray for discernment - We will need to make a lot of impromptu decisions. I suspect there will be times we will need to improvise. May we have discernment for that as well as to hear and listen to what God is saying to us at each moment.
- Pray for impact - Pray that my time with the Portuguese leaders and pastors would be a blessing in their lives and ministry. That my insights and experiences would speak to their context in a fresh and positive way.
- Pray for Crossbridge - With the calibers of leaders at Crossbridge, I’m confident I could take a sabbatical every year without hurting the church in anyway. But their task is hard nevertheless. Pray that God would enable each of the leaders to lead well in my absence and that the church would continue to grow and thrive during the summer months.
Besides praying you could support our sabbatical by...
- Continuing to stay involved - Don’t cease to serve and give of your time and resources during this season. Even though there’s a natural summer dip in giving and attendance, the summer is an important season in the life our church as new families and individuals transitioning to our city walk through our doors with the desire to get to know more about us and to connect. Use this season to help others get welcomed and acclimated to our church family. Plan out your summer giving so that Crossbridge does not suffer budget wise during those months.
- Supporting the rest of the staff and elders - give them your undivided allegiance and attention. Pray for them and be opened to learn from them.