Dear Leader, you are probably among the most active people in church. Especially if you’re a leader in the youth or young adult’s ministry. But do you love God and His people enough to rest?
I didn’t, for years.
Growing up, it was drummed in me and my friends that the Sabbath is given to us for God. No work, no study, no running the 100m in the Olympics even if it’s your pet event. For some of us, this meant no movies (because of profanity, violence, and sex), sports (it’s a selfish pursuit), and Facebook (others may post ungodly material or thoughts).
We were taught to dedicate ourselves to God and God’s people on Sunday, because the Sabbath is holy and God is holy.
And so, we spend entire Sundays in church. This might sound familiar to you.
We usher people in for the morning service, lead kids’ worship, tell them Bible stories, pack up, talk to two new people during tea fellowship, run off for adult Bible study, grab a quick lunch, attend choir practice, attend a planning meeting for the next Church camp, discuss plans for the Easter musical, attend sunset service … until finally, we sink into our beds.
Sunday after Sunday, we repeat this routine. Then fatigue sets in and we lose the joy of serving. We gripe about being overworked, then feel guilty for being so negative because it’s Church! Surely it can’t be wrong to pack our Sundays in worship, ministry, in relieving others of their burdens and pain?
But our enthusiasm wears away into reluctance. We start to compare, find fault with others. We grow bitter that others get to take leave from ministry when their exams roll around. Or because they just got married. Some quote Deuteronomy 24:5 to justify taking “marriage leave” from ministry for a year. Then babies come along and a year’s break just turned into a 7-year hiatus. ????
Prayer retreats and timeouts remind us that God is gracious. They teach us to rely on God’s strength, and walk by faith.
So we struggle with weariness and resentment. We feel inadequate to serve.
And that is when we need to hit the pause button. We have simply swapped a hectic weekday for an equally hectic (or more hectic) Sunday.
But we need to rest, just as Jesus did.
Jesus slipped out and prayed before starting public ministry (Luke 4:5-15). Before he made major decisions (Luke 6:12-16). Before and after ministering to people (Mark 1:35-38, Luke 5:16, Matthew 14:22-33). Before trying times (Matthew 26:36-46).
Although Jesus was fully God and fully man, He took time out to draw strength from His Father. Jesus took time to eat with his disciples, tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10). He even slept (Matthew 8:24).
We, too, need these times of refreshing.
Prayer retreats are one way to get a concentrated dose. Our prayer retreats may not look like Jesus’. (40 days in the wilderness is a bit much for most of us, tbh.) Mine had creature comforts like an MP3 player, a McGriddle, and shade from a pavillion in the Botanic Gardens. Yours could be up in a mountain sanctuary, by the beach, or at a cafe with good coffee.
What matters more is the essence – setting aside personal time with God. We need to unplug from the world, so no TV, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram. No distractions. No need to tell the world you’re on a #prayerretreat.
So learn to embrace and enjoy the Sabbath, the rest ordained by God.
Those few hours will be worth it, I promise. After a prayer retreat, my friend was compelled to reach out to hurting, depressed and anxious people. Another decided on which church to attend. And yet another found a new focus, allowing him to concentrate on a couple of ministries instead of spreading himself every which way. I myself came away from my last one with a list of people who could help me (then an overwhelmed 24 year old) with the craziness of leading and conducting two choirs.
Prayer retreats and timeouts remind us that God is gracious. They teach us to rely on God’s strength, and walk by faith. They demonstrate how our joy rests in Jesus – and cannot be taken away, even if we feel down.
So learn to embrace and enjoy the Sabbath, the rest ordained by God. It’s what allows us to do what we have to do. Or, as Martin Luther said: “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”