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Sabbaticalogue Wk. 6 – Talk About Extremes

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Talk about extremes. Laura and I went from one kind of boat ride to another. We went from a Sunset Cruise in Naples, FL to a fishing boat “cruise” toward a remote island called Palma Real, Ecuador. We went from a tour of $20 million mansions lining Naples Bay to a tour of what we would call shacks, and what their owners call homes, lining the island coast.

We have now turned the first corner of my sabbatical—from rest and renewal to service and missions, and it couldn’t have come in a more dramatic fashion. And for this, we are grateful.

One can only sit on the beach, sit by a pool, and sit in comfortable condos and palatable restaurants for so long. That’s a lot of sitting. Many of us might think we’d love to retire to a life of luxury where we can spend the rest of our days shopping, dining, golfing and eating. Laura and I did that the last few weeks . . . minus the golfing . . ., and though enjoyable, it was a “stepping out” of real life, a vacation—vacating the premises of normal living.

One can only vacate so long before missing the life left behind. Vacation becomes exile when we live too long in the surreal existence of self-focus.

“Where are we going to eat today?” “What would you like to do today?” These are questions that reflect an infinite amount of possibilities to satisfy self. These are vacation questions. Real-life questions take the focus off self and place it on others. “What can I do today to make a difference?” “How is my job making an impact?” “How can I serve my family and others?”

This is why I am grateful for rounding the bend in my sabbatical season, for now I move from self to service. There’s good to be found in taking care of self, and we need times of rest and renewal. But barracks exist to get you ready to go back to the front lines. The only reason to stay in the barracks too long is because of illness. When you’re back to health, you’re ready to “get back at it,” which is exactly where true fulfillment is found.

So, Laura and I have “gotten back at it” by joining an E91 Missions Team to serve in Ecuador. We’re visiting our E91 church plant in Palma Real, Ecuador, which is in partnership with Compassion International and Stadia. And we’ve been blessed to visit our Compassion Sponsor Child, Elian, and his family.

Every time I’m on one of these trips, I’m amazed at the love and joy of the children. Although they live in extreme poverty, they live with extreme joy. Talk about contrasts. While seeking the latest fashion and the latest phones, many of our middle-class American children have lost the beauty of simplicity, that life does not consist in the abundance of things but in the abundance of relationships.

I’m grateful for the reminder. I need it. We live in a world of extreme contrast—rich and poor, spiritual bankruptcy and spiritual wealth, the need for vacations, and the fulfillment of purpose in real life. I pray you help bridge the gap so that, as has often been said, you can “live simply so that others can simply live.”

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 5 - Clear Warning Signs of a Perfect Storm

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If you’ve been following these blogs the past five weeks, you’ll have noticed that a lot of the “selfies” I’ve taken aren’t just of my “self,” but of Laura and me together.  It sounds rather odd to take a “selfie” of more than one’s self, but it still sounds better than calling the picture a “twosie.”

Laura and I have been a “twosie” as we traveled to Pensacola, on to Marco Island, back to Pensacola, and now home.  In short order, I’ll just be a “selfie” once again (rather than a “onesie”), and herein lies the danger.

I just read a clear warning sign directed to pastors but applicable to all: “In ministry, the perfect storm for a personal disaster is also the convergence of three elements: ambition, isolation, and self-deception” (Lance Witt, Replenish, 46).

Ambition?  Check.  Self-deception?  Been there, done that.  Isolation? More than I care to admit. 

I’ve seen it far too often, and you have as well.  A church leader climbs the ladder of church “success” and discovers that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is as elusive in the church-world as in the business-world.  With success comes more pressure, problems, stress and anxiety.  You’ve got to keep pushing the vision wheel up the hill and bringing your “A-Game” every Sunday.

You begin to deceive yourself to think you’re more important than you are, and as the pressure mounts, you begin to take short-cuts and slight compromises that you never would have considered earlier in your ministry career. 

Success is the breeding ground of isolation.  You keep people at arms’ length because your image looks far better from a distance than up close.  If people get too close, they’ll get to know the “real” you, and with that can come disapproval, rejection and shame.

Ambition, isolation and self-deception—the ultimate environment for the perfect storm leading to personal disaster—and it’s not just possible for me; it’s also possible for you.

In this time of sabbatical, I’m learning the deeper value and importance of community.  We all need people in our lives who help us stay on track. The longer I’m away from our elders, staff, and men’s groups, the more I appreciate the friendship, camaraderie, and community we share together.  “It is slower to lead with a group, but it’s also healthier and wiser” (ibid., 54).

Do you have ambition? Good.  But don’t let your ambition lead you to define success only by external measurements.  Don’t lose your soul while you achieve your dream.  And don’t cut yourself off from the very ones who will speak truth into your life, because they love you too much to let you deceive yourself. 

Solomon said, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31). It’s an incredible gift to have a handful of people in your life who love you enough to tell you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. 

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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