He Makes Me Lie Down

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On Sunday, October 25, 2015, I shared with the body of Strong Tower Bible Church that I am taking a much-needed sabbatical. I was so encouraged by how the church responded to my announcement with a standing ovation. If you were not in church that particular Sunday, you can read my comments below:

I stand before you today with God’s blessing, but it would bless my heart if I had your blessing as well. God is lovingly and gently calling for me to take a momentary rest from ministry. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He is making me to lie down in green pastures. He is leading me beside the still waters. He is restoring my soul. He is anointing my head with fresh oil.

I am not proud of the fact that in 20 years of being the pastor of STBC, I have taken only one four-week sabbatical. Many of my mentors and colleagues take a one-month sabbatical every year. Others take a three-month sabbatical every five years. Knowing that I needed to rest, I planned last year to take a sabbatical in the month of August, but August came and went without me taking a sabbatical.

If you recall, the church was still in the midst of “swift transition” in August. We had to raise money, repair our balcony, and renovate our sanctuary. We also had to adjust to significant membership and staff changes along the way. It would have been irresponsible for me to step away in August.

We also know that for the past five years I have taken on the responsibilities of being the church’s senior pastor and executive pastor. This strenuous combination, coupled with being in a rigorous, three-year doctoral program, and the church moving multiple times has left me extremely fatigued.

But now that the church’s renovation is complete, our student director is in place, administrative volunteers are helping out, my schooling is done, and our midweek Huddle Groups have launched, the elders and I believe that this is the best time for me to take a much needed sabbatical. We’ve decided that I should take some time off during the upcoming holiday season to recharge my mind, body, and spirit.

During this break, I plan to simply read and rest at home. To have my emotional cup filled, I also plan on visiting my family in Baltimore, my son in Lynchburg, my daughter in New York, and my wife’s family in Portsmouth. And to help me heal from some of the emotional wounds and traumas I’ve encountered over the years, I have enlisted the help of a professional, Christian therapist. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is unfortunately prevalent amongst pastors, and due to my specific calling, I have also experienced what is known as “Racial Battle Fatigue.”

Yes, this recent season has been a strain on my family and I, but it has also been quite demanding on my staff and our church as a whole. This is why I commend you for being strong in the Lord and for enduring hardship as good soldiers of Christ. I applaud you for your commitment to continue adhering to the vision of this house, which is to experience, explain, and expand God’s Diverse Kingdom in the city and throughout the world. We must be encouraged to know that God is using all of this pressure for His purpose. Job 23:10 says, “But He knows the way that I take; and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”

As God challenged Jeremiah, He is likewise calling me to run with the horses and not just with the footmen. Greater things are yet to come and greater works are still to be done in this city, and because of that, we all have to be strong. And for me, I have to be strong by surrendering to the Lord and resting. When reading the psalms, there is a little word called “Selah” that has a big meaning. Selah means to pause, to stop, to think, to reflect, to rest. In Psalm 139:16, it says that God has written a book on each of us, and if His Bible has several Selah pause point points within its sacred pages, it is no doubt that He has written several Selah pause moments in our books. As I come to this particular chapter, page, and paragraph in my life and ministry, this is my moment to pause.

I believe that if I don’t rest now it will hinder my ability to lead our church in the future. As I mentioned, I have God’s blessing to rest, but my question for you this morning is, “Strong Tower, do I have your blessing to rest?”

[Applause]

And since I have your blessing to rest, I know there will not be a drop off in our attendance. I know there will not be a decline in our giving. I know there will not be a decrease in our spiritual enthusiasm. On the contrary, I expect for you to be excited about what Jesus is doing in and through STBC for such a time as this!

So now I ask Elder Aubrey to come and lead us in our closing prayer.

 

POSTED: October 27, 2015