As my sabbatical begins to draw to a close, there are several thoughts that I have been developing that I thought I would share.
One of the things I have observed in other churches I have visited and checked out on the web is that a lot of pastors are "preaching in blocks": allowing a theme to guide several weeks of preaching. I kind of thought this was a good idea and have been doing some work along those lines. Already a couple of ideas have emerged. When I come back, I have been asked to talk about my sabbatical experience. I am going to do this in a series of sermons (don't yet know exactly how many) entitled "Life as a Regular Christian". I have been working a lot this week on an idea inspired by an article in "Reformed Worship". The series is for Advent, and I think I will call it "The Family of God". It will look at some of the people listed in Jesus' geneology in Matthew 1. By studying these members of Jesus' family, maybe we can find our own place in His family. There are a couple of other ideas that are still in the early phases.
Another idea that was inspired in me just this morning had to do with prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. I wonder if prayer meeting should become more about just that: prayer. Learning to pray. Praying for one another, our community, our world. Praying to talk to and listen to God. Praying in awe and wonder of our Creator. I enjoy doing the Bible studies on Wednesday nights, but maybe there needs to be more time spent in conversation with God. I don't know, but I would like to talk about it.
One of the big things, as I mentioned before I left, is the use of my time. One of the things I have come to realize is that part of the "burnout" that I was fighting against before I left came from the fact that there were too many occasions over the last few years where I was spending too much time doing things that were not what God called me to do. I want to serve God and serve the church and be an instrument through which God can make a difference in a person's life. In order to accomplish these things, I have begun to think about how I can best use the time and space God has given to me. People may notice some changes when I get back (at least I hope they do!) and I hope these changes will help me be who God has called me to be.
Someone may be reading this and asking: "What kind of changes?" Well, some of the changes I have been thinking about include:
1) Spending some more time with folks one-on-one, outside of the church.
2) Letting my office become more of a study, a place where I can prepare and pray. Dave Baker once gave me an article that talked about how the pastor's office should be a "garden" into which the pastor can enter to meet and talk to God. That's kind of what I am thinking.
3) Responding to issues and crises from a kingdom perspective. Asking the question, "What here is important from the perspective of God's kingdom and His call?"
I hope that I can engage with the church about these and other changes so that we can all discern what it is that God intends for each of us. I am really looking forward to coming back!