Archives For sabbatical

We are once again at the time of the year when we reflect on the past year and look ahead towards the next.

Reflection brings clarity.

Reflection brings conviction.

Reflection can bring new commitments.

Let me reflect on one thing I’ve learned over the past year and share a commitment I’m making for the next year.

I was privileged to be able to take a 9-week sabbatical this past summer after 27 years of ministry. It was one of the most important things I’ve ever experienced in my ministry.

Side note: Here are a few random bits of advice if you are blessed to take a sabbatical.

1. Do whatever you need to do to properly care for your soul. I was advised to stay home, leave home, travel, do nothing, do something, write a book, don’t write a book, etc., etc., etc. I ended up traveling around the country and speaking a few times. I went to 18 different states. Each trip was planned for a special purpose and with special people. My wife and I traveled to the Northwest to be mentored by someone I deeply respect. My entire family took a 3-week road-trip to see family in the Midwest. My sons and I spent a week in the mountains at cross-country camp. I spent a week by myself on the beach in Southern California. My wife, two daughters, and I took a road trip to Indiana. I wouldn’t trade a moment of my sabbatical. I owned it and the reward was renewing.

2. Budget to spend time being mentored by someone you respect in ministry. I paid a renowned author and leader for a couple of days of mentoring. It was an unbelievable blessing and set the tone for the rest of my sabbatical.

3. Budget for your sabbatical. Make sure you have enough money to do what you need to do and for your church to cover your absence.

4. Disconnect from work in every way. For 9 weeks I didn’t take calls, texts, or emails from my staff or from church members. A few people snuck through the “firewall” early on–which only served to remind me of why I needed a break–but…eventually…people gave me the much-needed space I needed to rest, reflect, and be renewed.

5. Ask the Lord to speak to you and then listen for His reply.

I did this and very clearly heard Him say (through sermons, Scripture, wisdom from friends, songs, and through nature), “Be still and know that I am God.”

Back to the point of this post…

To me, going on sabbatical and then coming off sabbatical, felt like stepping off the belt of a fast-moving treadmill, but remaining on the treadmill, and then trying to step back onto the racing belt.

If you’ve ever trained on a treadmill you’ve probably experienced what I’m referring to. You’re running at a fast pace–trying to reach a time or distance goal–but your phone rings, or buzzes, or your neighbor on the next treadmill over wants to chat and you don’t want to fall and be catapulted into the stack of free weights behind you, so you lift yourself off of the fast-moving belt and rest your feet on either side of the belt while the belt keeps turning. When you’re done with your “important” call or text you may have done what I’ve done in the past with varying levels of success: try to get back on the treadmill while the belt is still turning so as not to pause your workout and have to start the clock all over again.

Most of the times this works, but not always, and I don’t recommend it…ever!

Getting off the “treadmill” for my sabbatical was refreshing.

Getting back on the “treadmill” after my sabbatical was stupid and I don’t recommend it!

Life is busy for most of us. It’s just how it is. But, the pace at which I was living before my sabbatical was unsustainable. Even so, shortly after coming off my sabbatical I realized I was getting back onto that racing treadmill again and it scared me.

I know it’s unsustainable.

It scared me with how easily I could forget what God had clearly spoken to me over my time away: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Based on my actions, as I got back to work in ministry, it was as if I’d really heard the Lord say, “You better get busy because I can’t do this without you.”

Activity does not equal vitality.

I want my ministry to His church and His people and His world to be vital and only and all about the Lord and His will for my life, so I’m getting off the treadmill and getting on the path.

A path is the best metaphor there is for how–and where–we should invest our time and energy as we live this side of Heaven.

Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Jeremiah 6:16

Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.

Here are some important truths about a path in comparison to a treadmill and reasons why a path is a much better choice than a treadmill.

Paths vs. Treadmills

Treadmills are, by nature, exhausting.

Paths are, by nature, refreshing (or they should be) because they are generally in nature.

Treadmills take you nowhere.

Paths take you somewhere.

Treadmills can only accommodate one person.

Paths can accommodate as many as necessary for the journey.

Treadmills are designed to move you along at a pre-determined pace.

Paths are enjoyed at a pace of your choosing.

Treadmills cost money to use (either through a gym membership or through purchase).

Paths are free.

Technology is required for treadmills to work properly.

Paths require no technology.

Treadmills run you.

We run paths.

Well, that’s enough for now. I think it’s time for a walk. It’s something I’m now committed to.

Can you think of any other differences between treadmills and paths that clarify the importance of getting off the “treadmill”? If so, share them in the comments section.

©2017 Arron Chambers





What’s the most effective thing you do to care for yourself?

I asked some friends on Facebook. Here are a few of my favorite responses:

Dr. Carol Miner—Learning to say NO and not feel guilty about it
Becky Freeman—Drinking coffee while blasting worship music!
Brendon Paladichuk—Gym time and my Guatemala missions
Brian Jennings—Jogging while listening to sermons, scripture or podcasts and praying
Shannan Nicole Snow—CrossFit
Laura Gorman—Nap
Guy Layfield—Other than the obvious Sunday school answers… Saying no to people every once in a while.

I was overwhelmed with that bit of wisdom…taking care of yourself by just saying “no” to stuff. Saying “no” was by far the most popular response to taking care of oneself.

Remember that anti-drug campaign: “Just say no!”


Side note: I remember going to the bathroom one time during that era and seeing that message written on the urinal pad and thinking to myself, “Really?”

Is some person going to say, “I was going to say ‘yes’ to those drugs you’re offering me, but…I was going to the bathroom the other day and I read something in the urinal that I’m going to say to you right now: ‘no!”?

Have you heard that when we say “no” to something, we’re saying “yes” to other things?

On Thursday, I’m beginning a 2 month Sabbatical.

I’m going to spend 2 months saying “no” to some things so I can say “yes” to others.

I’m going to say “no” to email, texts, and Facebook messenger (i.e. whatever you have to say to me), so I can say “yes” to whatever God has to say to me.

I’m going to say “no” to ministry at Journey, so I can say “yes” to submitting myself to God’s ministry to me, so I can say “yes” to another 27 years of ministry.

I’m going to say “no” to work, so I can say “yes” to rest.

I’m going to say “no” to caring for others, so I can say “yes” to self-care.

What do you need to say “no” to? I’ll come back to that.

We used to be good at saying “no.”

It’s one of the first words most of us learned.

Let’s practice! Here are some things we should say “no” to:

Creepy Mustaches


Fidget Spinners

Un-sweet tea

Hairless Cats

Trump Tweets!

Games on Facebook

That stupid post where you tell me that Jesus will bless me….or curse me…if I forward….or don’t forward your stupid post!

The Romper for Men!

I think one of the best things we can do for self-care is to say “no.”

God did.

Check this out…

Genesis 2:2
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.

Didn’t He have more He could be doing? Of course, but he didn’t.

He rested.
He said “no” to work to say “yes” to rest.

Some of you need to do that.

Say “No” to work to say “Yes” to rest.

Say “no” to work on a regular basis.
Take your breaks.
Take your day off.
Take your vacation.
Take a nap!

Here are some signs that you are addicted to work, information, or things that are adding stress to your life:

Do you check work email on vacation?
Do you reach for your phone every time you come to a stop while driving?
Do you text while other people are trying to speak to you?
Are you missing memories because you’re obsessed with promoting your life on social media as being perfect, fun, and without any imperfections?
Does the idea of a day with nothing to do kind of make you nervous?

If you don’t have any time in your life where you are still you are missing an incredible opportunity to know God.

Psalm 46:10
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

When we are still we are reminded…
Busyness is a barrier to knowing God.
I believe it’s impossible to truly know God when we are moving at mach speed.

Busyness blinds us to the fact that we are NOT God!
Sometimes our busyness only communicates that we believe that WE are the key to success—not God.

If we really believe in God, we will be willing to be still and let Him move us wherever it is He wants us to go.

God is either going to be honored or we’re going to be honored.

So much of our work and busyness is about accomplishing something for ourselves.

Imagine what would happen if we become obsessed with honoring God?

Is work important? Absolutely!

The Apostle Paul taught this.

2 Thessalonians 3:10
For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Work is important, but not more important than rest.

Say “no” to being everyone’s messiah, so you can say “yes” to being your ole messy human-being-self.

Jesus did. He was the Messiah, but He also knew the key to saving the world was in saving time to be alone with His heavenly Father.

Mark 1:35-38
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Jesus retreated a lot during His ministry.

Luke 5:16
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Was He not doing His job? Of course He was!
Weren’t there people who needed healing? Of course there were!
Wasn’t He the Messiah? Of course He was!

But, He was wise enough to know the importance of saying “no” to being someone’s Messiah now so He can say “yes” to being their Messiah when they really need it.

Rest in these truths:
Not every crisis is your responsibility to fix.
Some of you mom and dads need to hear what I’m saying.
You are not really helping your adult children by stepping in to fix all of their problems. What you may be doing is just enabling them to be victims.

You’re not Jesus.
It’s not your job to help everyone or try to fix their problems.
Let Jesus do that and you just focus on doing what God has called you to do.

You can only control what you can control.

Some of you spouses need to hear what I’m saying. If your spouse is being abusive or hurtful to you, or being unfaithful to you, or just being a bad person, it’s not your job to try to fix them or control their bad behavior.
Pray. Yes!
Seek counseling. Yes!
But, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to fix what only God can fix!

It doesn’t end very well for messiahs.

If you play the part of the “messiah” in your relationships—trying to do what only Jesus can do—don’t throw a fit and be surprised when they want to crucify you.

I’d say it’s best to let Jesus run the world.

Say “no” to the urgent so you can say “yes” to the important.

Luke 10:38-42
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was busy with the urgent…getting things prepared, making sure they were served, making sure things were being cleaned up.

She was also busy with being a tattle-tale!
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Sisters never change, do they? 🙂

Martha was really saying, “Mary is not being fair. Jesus, this is not fair! She’s not carrying her weight. I’m carrying this church. If it wasn’t for me, the programming of this church would fall apart. You better start appreciating me or this Church volunteer is out of here!”

Martha is anxious and worried about stuff that doesn’t matter.

What about you? Are you losing sleep over stuff that doesn’t really matter?

In the moment, was what Martha was doing really important? No!

It was urgent, but not important.

In the moment, what Mary was doing was more important.

What was she doing?

She sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

Here’s a great principle: Being with Jesus is always better than Doing for Jesus.

Here’s another great principle: Listening to Jesus is always better than Talking to Jesus.

Martha was so busy trying to tell Jesus something that she couldn’t hear what He was trying to say.

How do we discern what is urgent and what is important?
What are your priorities? If you haven’t established them, do so…soon!
Where is the bein’?
Where is Jesus? Always do whatever you can to be next to Him.
What is Jesus telling you to do?

How do we hear Jesus?
Word—The Bible
Worship—Like Mary, worship at His feet and you’ll be close enough to hear Him when He speaks.
Wisdom—From the Body of Christ.
Witness—Keep your eyes open and you just may “hear” God speaking to you through things you see in the world around you.

So, back to my question:
What is it you need to say “no” to?
Let’s get real practical.

If there is something on your schedule right now that is not really important, I want you to pull out your phone right now and cancel it.

If you have not planned your vacation for this year yet, I want you to set up a reminder, or text your spouse, to make a commitment to get one on the calendar…right now!

Is there someone in your life who is draining the very life right out of you? Maybe you need to just go ahead and block them on your phone right now? Or delete the email string or Facebook string that is causing you such stress right now?

Well, there you go. I’m outta here.

I’m about to say a whole lotta “no” to the urgent over the next 2 months, so I can say a whole lotta “yes” to the important.

©2017 Arron Chambers