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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

Sabbaticalogue Wk. 4 – Doing Nothing Can Be the Hardest Kind of Something

Some people have told me that a sabbatical sounds so “spiritual,” a.k.a. “boring.” “So, what do you do, sit around and pray all day?” Not that praying is necessarily boring, although I have experienced my fair share of boring prayers (offered by me). No, a sabbatical is not just a time to pray but also a time to play.

Hence, the pic of Laura and me on the beach in Marco Island . . . and, yes, it’s gloriously hot. One of the many lessons I’ve been learning about a sabbatical is that it shouldn’t be limited to “professional” clergy. Not all Christians may have an opportunity to take an extended time of rest, renewal, and recalibration, but the concept of sabbatical should exist in the weekly rhythm of our lives.

John Ortberg calls this, Soul Keeping, building into our daily and weekly routine ways for us to keep our souls healthy and refreshed. In his book by the same title, he reminds us that in the 23rdPsalm, God “makes me lie down in green pastures.” He doesn’t invite us to lie down. He doesn’t request us to lie down. He makes us lie down.

Many of us remember the nights when our children simply didn’t want to go to bed, and eventually, we had to make them lie down. Ortberg asks, “Is it bedtime for your soul?”

How good are you at doing nothing? I’ve found that doing nothing can be the hardest kind of “something.” How long can you sit still in a chair doing nothing? You’re simply “being”—still, at peace, in silence, in solitude. I struggle with doing nothing because I feel guilty. I feel like I’m unproductive, and if I’m not producing something (like a sermon, book, or staff meeting), then I’m not valued, a.k.a. “important.”

According to Ortberg, “The capacity to do nothing is actually evidence of a lot of spiritual growth.” Centuries ago, Blaise Pascal wrote, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”

Yes, doing nothing should lead to something. We don’t slip into a black hole of “nothingness” as God makes us lie down in green pastures. But we come apart from the busyness which can often lead to hurriedness in order for our souls to find healing and rest. Vance Havner once wrote about the need for soul rest: “If you don’t come apart for a while, you will come apart in a while.”

Perhaps your life circumstances make a two- or three-month sabbatical an impossibility, but nothing in life should keep you from “sabbathing” on a weekly basis. Find a rhythm that works for you. Join in the work of God who makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters to restore your soul.

And when you practice the discipline of doing nothing, you will discover that God is up to something.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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