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The bigger the plane the longer the runway needs to be. It can take almost a mile of runway for a 747 Jumbo jet to take off or land. A STOL (short take-off and landing) plane has to make do with less than 1,500ft about one-third the distance. In order for a pastor to successfully “take off” careful planning must include several things.

First, there has to be good information about the scheduling of “who’s going to do what?” while he is away. It is a privilege for us to be able to hear and respond to God’s Word from a variety of spokesmen. Many churches around the globe have no trained preachers. When I go on sabbatical we will have six different men preaching. I have worked out a preaching schedule that includes hearing God’s Word through men of our church who have preached here before. Then we will hear once from Paul Johnson of Corban University, twice from Paul Metzger of Multnomah University, and four times from David Thommen of Western Seminary. Now is the time to pray for the men who will be preaching during sabbatical.

Second, there has to be a healthy shift away from dependence upon a paid pastor or staff-elder to the body of Christ. With Christ as our Head our church grows and develops and reaches out on mission. It is from Christ that “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesian 4:16, NIV). Over a period of time, it is a natural tendency for people in a church to become set in our ways.  Routines become ruts. Even without realizing it, the body of Christ finds that flexibility is lost, joints stiffen, and muscles atrophy through disuse. Now is the time to pray and ask God how you can stretch and grow in your faithful service to Christ.

Third, there has to be a confident expectation that God is going to bless and even grow our church during the sabbatical. Usually in the summertime, church attendance dips due to family vacations, summer sports leagues, holidays and three day weekends, etc. However, the amount of time spent with people outside of one or two hours on Sunday morning goes up. Those are key times for having spiritual conversations with friends and family. Colleen Cooper writes, “In a recent study, 79 percent of unchurched said they would be willing to engage in a faith conversation if a Christian friend shared, yet in separate but related research, only 39 percent of Christ-followers said they have shared the gospel in the past six months. That’s a 40 percent gap” (Christianity Today, 5/18/18). Now is the time to pray and ask God to setup a spiritual conversation with someone this summer.

I don’t consider myself to have a jumbo jet sized ministry. However, due to slowness and age it probably requires a little bit longer of a runway than it used to for me to take-off. However, thoughtful preparation and diligent prayer are going to get this sabbatical plan off the ground. I fully expect that God will bless both our church family and also my personal family during this sabbatical. And, we will join together again afterwards with greater energy and vision for the glory of God in this church and community.

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