The following post outlines what my goals are for my Sabbatical which will occur, God willing, August 31st through November 29th, 2009 (returning to work on November 30th).
The focus of my Sabbatical grows out of the things that I have sensed have been going on in my life for the past several years. I have addressed those the previous post entitled "Why Sabbatical."
A Focus on the Holy Spirit
I have felt the drain of ministry most significantly on my own spiritual resources. In the past, I have found spiritual vitality most consistently through solitude, the focused and in depth study of the Word and the fueling of my personal relationship with God through the indwelling of his Spirit. Therefore I want to spend a significant amount of time during the Sabbatical working through the New Testament teaching about the vital nature of the Holy Spirit and how it is that he transforms us and empowers us. I have had a sense in recent years that I have had somewhat of a disconnect on the intimacy level of my relationship with Jesus, and I hope through study, prayer and meditation, to recover this, or better yet, to experience it anew in even greater ways.
My primary source for this part of my sabbatical, other than the Bible, is Gordon Fee's academic work, God's Empowering Presence (1994: Hendrickson). I have wanted to work through this when it was first published (wow! 15 years ago already) and never have. Fee is not only one of our best NT scholars, but is a Pentecostal from the Assembly of God church. His insights and exegesis have been hugely helpful over the years.
This "Holy Spirit journey" might also include revisiting some places/people who have been instrumental in my walk with God in the past (like the International House of Prayer in Kansas City).
Prayer support in this area would be welcome. And if you wish, you could get this book and read it with me. It is a heavy tome; however, Fee has condensed and summarized it in a book for wider readership, entitled Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (1996: Hendrickson), which will be a much easier read.
Developing Strategic Plans for the continued transition of ECOB into an Intentional Disciple Making Community
I have been working with the leadership of the church on an overall vision and strategy for becoming an intentional disciple making community of believers. This overall vision is well formulated but specifics of it need to be worked on and developed for interpretation to the congregation. I would hope to come back from Sabbatical with some specific plans on how to proceed.
My personal study of the Holy Spirit's ministry dovetails at this point. I have preached and have written about the fact that the church is essentially a pneumatic (the Greek word for spirit) community, formed by the Spirit, led by the Spirit and empowered by the Spirit. At least, this is God's intention for the church. Today, the real presence of the Holy Spirit among us, in our worship and meetings and families, seems to play, at best, a minimal role in our community, rather than the dominate role. I want to be open to God changing this at ECOB.
Seeking a Fuller Understanding of God's Movement in my life
A second item, related to the above, is my quest to seek a deeper and fuller understanding of how God has been moving in my life during the past few years. To do this, I am hoping to connect with a Spiritual Director. I have been in conversation with the leadership of our local Catholic Church. The Catholics have a rich tradition in the art of spiritual direction and so I have gone there for help with this. Spiritual Directors are not counselors but rather "discerners" who listen to your heart and help you discern the movement of God. I am not sure if our how this will come together, but I am pursuing it.
I would welcome prayer support in this area, as well.
Continued Growth in my Self Awareness and Leadership Skills
I have met regularly with Leadership Coach Geoff Davis for personal direction and development and holistic health, and will continue to do that before, during and after sabbatical. Geoff helps me look both at how I manage my life and how I lead with integrity.
Down Time and Fun Time
Of course, Sabbatical will be a time to have some fun and do some things that I cannot normally do. The constraints of pastoral ministry (always on call and weekends being "prime time") take its toll over the years. I expect that near the beginning and end of the Sabbatical period, Doris and I will hit the road for some time off and to be together. My plan as of now is to take off on or about September 7 for a 2 week road trip following the Seaway trail from Massena, NY, to Springfield, PA, along the St Lawrence Seaway, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The route passes 29 lighthouses, of which I want to photograph every one, as well as numerous historic landmarks, museums and other attractions. And then at the end of the Sabbatical, Doris and I will do a mini time away for our 36th anniversary, which is November 24th.
Of course there will be some time for family and for tinkering on my car.
You might wonder where I will worship during this time. Good question. I would love to worship at ECOB, but you and I both know that if I do, I would be too easily drawn back into the responsibilities of work. You should expect to see Doris from time to time, however. I plan to worship consistently at one of our area churches. I'll let you know which one later.
I desire to post regularly to this Sabbatical Blog leading up to and throughout the sabbatical time. I welcome you to journey with me via this format. You can enter your email address on the right to receive new posts to this blog right in your email. I would especially welcome prayers during this time.