Brothers and Sisters,
I love our church. God has planted and grown something very special in this place. This is not the result of dumb luck or a detailed strategy. It is purely the result of the grace of God. I feel blessed to be a part of this church and humbled to be one of its leaders.
Near the end of May, my family and I will begin an extended Sabbatical in accordance with our By-laws and under the direction of our elders. The Sabbatical will last approximately three months. The concept of a Sabbatical is biblical, but the practice is rather exceptional. Statistically, an estimated 5% of all churches offer their pastors Sabbaticals, which likely contributes to the fact that 50% of ministers starting out only last 5 years before quitting. In fact, only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. I am, therefore, deeply grateful to the church members and its leaders for this gift. It is my conviction that, your investment in this time of intentional rest and renewal will ensure sustained excellence in ministry for years to come at Restoration Road.
Our family has been serving on God’s mission by leading God’s church for nearly 12 years. By grace, we have enjoyed a front row seat to watch God plant three thriving churches and establish a growing regional network. Our time leading Damascus Road Church and Restoration Road Church (formerly Damascus Road Snohomish) has been filled with years of great joy and great sorrow. But every year, without fail, our love for Jesus has grown as has our love for His people. As much as we are looking forward to our time together, please know, it is also going to be very difficult to be apart from our second family for this long. This will be a new and necessary experience for our family, one in which we expect to learn a lot about ourselves and our God.
This is also a new and necessary experience for our church family, one that will reveal a lot about who we are as a body. The elders fully expect God to gather more people, redeem more people, equip more people, and send more people during this time. In other words, God’s mission is not about one person, it continues through God’s people. Bodies are made up of many unique and important parts. While one “member” of the body is healing this Summer, the other members must to do their part, working together to ensure the body continues to thrive. This Sabbatical will provide new opportunities for all of our members to love the church family like never before. Below are several ways we are asking our members to love the family better:
PRAY FOR THE FAMILY | Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1Thessalonians 5.16-18
Commit to praying regularly for our church, especially during this time. Pray for our pastors. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our members. Pray for our mission. Pray for me and my family. Ask God to protect the church that He planted, that He grew, and that He loves. The commitment to pray helps us remember that our mission is more spiritual than it is practical. The commitment to pray helps us surrender our need to control and receive God’s kingdom as it unfolds. The commitment to pray helps us to confess our fears and depend on God. The commitment to pray helps us see that this is God’s church and not ours, and affirms our need for Him preserve and care for the church He built through the people He has called.
BE WITH THE FAMILY | And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10.24-25
Commit to gathering with the church at every opportunity. If we are going to be obedient to the “one-another” commands of Jesus, we need to be together. The Summer season invariably triggers new rhythms for families each year. As we plan for our vacations with our families, we want to encourage everyone to be intentional about planning to be with God’s family. Our families should go on vacation, our fellowship should not. The Bible warns us not to neglect being together with God’s people. Not only do we need our faith stirred by others, we also need to stir up the faith of others. Do not allow the church—the gathering of God’s people—to become an optional addendum to your Summer calendar. While this begins with gathering to worship on Sundays, it doesn’t end there. Be present to worship. Be present to study. Be present to rejoice. Be present to weep. Be present to show hospitality. Be present to help.
INVEST IN THE FAMILY | But as you excel in everything—in faith, speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor; so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2Corinthians 8.7-9
Commit to giving to the family. Each week we average between 300 and 350 people in our gatherings. There are many who faithfully give to meet the needs of this growing family, but they represent a minority percentage of our total membership. To be specific, we believe our giving (time and treasure) is at least 10-15% below where we need to be in order to effectively support our current ministry. We also believe that our present shortfall is not so much a result of a lack of servants or givers but, rather, a failure for some to invest in the family they’ve committed to. Some need be taught to give; others simply need to be told to give. Whenever we have communicated the needs of our mission, our family has always responded. During this Sabbatical, we are asking everyone to reevaluate their personal and financial investment in this family. Jesus expects us to make an investment in His church. Jesus desires more than our leftover time, talent, or treasure. He wants us to give as He has given to us—intentionally, sacrificially, and joyfully.
CARE AS THE FAMILY |Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit., serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. – Romans 12.9-13
Commit to caring for the family wherever there is a need. Different needs will present themselves in the life of our church and in the lives of our members. Fight passivity; commit to meeting the needs of others without being asked—take ownership to care for the family. Most of these needs will be met outside of a Sunday, in homes and at tables. Will you invite Jesus to your table by inviting a stranger or a friend in need? Everyone needs this kind of love whether they be singles, marrieds, families, widows, new believers, new visitors, hurting people, fringe people, old people, and young people. Everyone needs to love this way. Pastors and older Christians should be leading the charge in this, but we should all strive for it. Know that you don’t have to have a BIG house. You don’t have to have a BIG budget. You don’t have to have a BIG meal. You don’t have to have a “BIG clean”. You don’t even have to have a BIG plan. You just need a little faith.
I want to love our church family better, and I hope you do too. In my absence, and even more in my presence, please pray for our church family, be with our church family, invest in our church family, and care as the family of families you are. In so far as we live as the family God expects us to, we can trust God will do more than we expect for His glory and our joy. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen – Ephesians 3.20-21