September 2012

I waited for a fanfare, flags to wave, a siren to sound, a wisp of weeping or even some gnashing teeth but nothing! It was clearly a significant moment, but as I re-attached my church office keys to my key ring all was quiet. (Okay, maybe a little gnashing of teeth as the bothersome building project demanded a significant amount of time and attention during my sabbatical – see building blog later in the magazine.) We did manage to get out and about a bit though, learning lots by visiting a number of churches and leaders around the country. We also grew in gratitude thanking God for allowing us to be a part of a great church family – we are thankful for LHFC!

However, now that I am back I face a challenge. Many a minister discovers sabbatical is the time when they hear more clearly the whisper of God, and in hearing God sense it is time to move to something new, often a new church. Others immediately get sucked straight back into all that they left behind and all that wasn’t done during their absence – and their diary swiftly implodes with the weight of meetings squashing sabbatical into the black hole of distant memories.

The purpose of a sabbatical is to leave something fallow from normal activities so that when it is used again better productivity, more fruit results – it is not supposed to be a preliminary for moving on or a blip from business as usual.

True, many tasks need to simply start again as usual – it is a job as well as a calling after all. But deeper “why?”, “how?” and “what?” questions need to be asked again. To ponder lessons learnt from how other churches approach areas and issues, to discern where God desires more fruit/growth to occur, to sense what needs more investment and what we need to step away from – we need to ask questions before normal life demands our full attention once more.

The whisper I’m hearing: is God first? All that we do – activities, services, small groups, welcome, worship, pastoral care, community work, evangelism and building projects - need to be approached through this question: is God first?

It’s about our hearts. The journey continues.

Mark Madavan.
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