Taking Time for a Sabbatical Rest

Pastor Oliver will be taking a sabbatical of six months from 1 November 2017. He shares what he will be doing during this period of rest and how we can pray for him.


Many have asked me, "So, what will you be doing for your sabbatical?" Ian announced two weeks back that I'll be on six months' sabbatical leave from 1 November 2017. During this time I will be taking a period of rest from ministry at Grace Baptist Church.

What is a sabbatical? A sabbatical, from the word sabbath, comes from the Hebrew word ‘šabbāt’, meaning to stop, to cease, or to keep. The concept is rooted in God's taking a day of rest following the six days of creation (Gen 2:2-3). Because of this creation order the Israelites observed the Sabbath day – one day of rest after six days of work (Ex 20:8-11). In remembering the Sabbath, God’s people reminded themselves that they are created beings, dependent on God who cares for and sustains all His creatures. The Sabbath also tells the people of God that they have been saved from slavery out of Egypt to become the people of God. God Himself had made a promise to them that they will be His people and He will be their God (Ex 6:6-8, Deut 5:12-15). So the Sabbath as rooted in OT thinking is the idea of ceasing from work to worship God – renewing delight in God by remembering that God both created and saved His people.

In the Gospels, Jesus declares that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-11, Mark 2:23-28). Jesus perfectly kept the Sabbath day. Jesus fully accomplished God’s work of redemption by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. And Jesus entered God’s rest Himself. As our Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus made it possible to follow Him into that salvation rest. Our task then is no longer to keep the Sabbath but to believe in Jesus Christ's completed work on our behalf. As the church, we now look forward to the end-time salvation rest (Heb 4:1-11) which Jesus brings when He comes again.

So, what does all this mean for me? Christopher Ash in his book “Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice” writes this: “We must not allow ourselves to slip into a false spirituality that treats our bodily existence as if it can be separated from our so-called 'spiritual' life – as if our spiritual life carries on quite independently from what is happening to our bodies… No, we must remember that we are whole people: embodied people whose existence is 'of a piece' and whose bodily and mental lives are inseparable from the way we relate to God (our 'spiritual' life).” This informs us that how we live our lives, the habits we maintain and the way we treat our bodies matter in our spiritual life.

This means then that I’ll be taking time off from ministry at Grace Baptist Church. This ceasing from labour will remind me that I'm dependent on God – that God is God and I am not. God cares for and sustains all His creatures. The world and the ministry I do belong ultimately to God. The Elders and Pastors have stepped up to cover my ministry responsibilities and to ensure that I’ll actually be taking a break.

It also means I’ll be taking this time off to seek and worship God. This period will be a time when I actively remember and rejoice in God’s provision of salvation rest – recognising and celebrating what Jesus Christ has done for me. I also intend for this time of rest and reflection, as I look to God in His word and seek counsel from friends, to expose my idols in ministry and reveal any unhealthy habits of serving. I hope this honest assessment will help me to not only detect my heart idols but also lead to repentance and a turning away from them.

Finally, this means that I’ll be taking time off to find refreshment and renewal in Jesus Christ. Through Bible reading, reading of good books and time spent in prayer and reflection, I hope that the Holy Spirit will use this opportunity to restore the joy of simply being a child of God. I desire that I will increasingly delight in the call and privilege to serve in ministry. I hope to find God’s grace for my renewed commitment to stay.

I thank Grace Baptist Church for your love demonstrated to my family and me in giving this period of sabbatical rest. I ask you to partner with me as I take my sabbatical leave by praying for and with me in the following areas: 

  1. I will be visiting three churches: Kay Poh Road Baptist Church, Redemption Hill Church and The Crossings Church. I will be attending their Sunday Services, and the pastors have welcomed me to participate in 2-3 other meetings a week while I am with them. Please pray for a time of learning how the gospel is practically applied to ministry and the life of the church. 
  1. I will be keeping up a habit of Bible reading, completing a reading list of good books and keeping both a written and photo journal of my sabbatical. Please pray for God to speak to me and teach me. 
  1. I will be keeping a schedule of rest, of personal and professional development. Please pray for joyful discipline and that through this I will receive a renewed strength for service and an increased delight in God and the gospel. 
  1. I will also be focusing on my diet, exercise and proper sleep habits. Please pray for improved health and fitness so that I may have the joy of a long tenure in ministry as well as more energy for people. 
  1. I will finally set aside time for family and friends in other churches. I do want to have a meaningful time with family during this period. I also regret that I have not kept up with friends in other churches and I intend to renew some friendships. Please pray for this period to be a time of renewal of relationships and friendships. 

I will miss you all at GBC but God willing, I will see you all on 2 May 2018! Till then, keep in the Love of the Lord!

Soli Deo Gloria,