As ministry leaders, we rarely get the opportunity to Sabbath on Sundays, and without intentionality we can neglect the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest altogether. For many of us, our day of Sabbath rest has turned into a time of running errands or simply recovering from the weekend of ministry – this is not what God intended of this day for us. Jesus declared that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, so if this day was made for us, we should take full advantage of its benefits.
So how can we Sabbath when we work on Sundays? Here are some ways that I’ve been using lately to help me protect my Sabbath and keep it holy:
1. I got serious about protecting my Sabbath day.
Your Sabbath day is your responsibility, and if you don’t place value on your Sabbath day, no one else will. I love the descriptive story of Nehemiah and how he rebuked the people of Jerusalem for not observing the Sabbath:
Nehemiah 13:19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.
No one will take your Sabbath day of rest more seriously than you.
2. I shut off my distractions.
Turning off your email on the Sabbath may not be enough, because text messaging has created a culture of instant communication – we’re now expected to be available to everyone at all times. If we’re truly going to observe a Sabbath day of rest, we might have to turn our phones off altogether or at least all of our notifications. I’m not suggesting you go dark on your spouse or children, but I am recommending you discover better ways to communicate with them while you replenish on your Sabbath day. I turn off all my notifications, never check my email, and only read text messages or receive calls from family. While I’m readily accessible as a pastor, I’m only strategically available. And for the health of my spiritual life, marriage, and ministry, I’m strategically unavailable on my day off. Except, (yes – there are always exceptions) when death or crisis impacts someone God has entrusted to my care. Ministry is not a job; it’s a way of life, so when tragedy strikes someone I shepherd and care for, my team knows how to get a hold of my wife or me. What I’ve found is that the better I protect my Sabbath the easier it is for me to step into crisis moments with grace and empathy.
3. I have a plan.
Approaching the Sabbath day without a plan is like going on a family vacation without a destination – you’ll get nowhere fast. Sabbath rest is not sleeping in or crossing things off your to-do list. I love what Pastor Chris Hodges says about the Sabbath, “You don’t rest because your tired, you rest so that you don’t grow tired.” The whole point of the Sabbath day is replenishment, not just rest. Everyone replenishes in different ways: outside, reading, sleeping, walking, singing, meditating, exercising, and the list goes on. No matter how you replenish, make a plan to replenish intentionally, and not just physically, think emotionally and spiritually too. The more focused you approach your Sabbath day, the more beneficial it will become.
Get serious, turn off your distractions, and execute your plan.
The health of your soul matters, and it has to matter most to you.
How are you protecting your Sabbath day? I’d love to hear the intentional steps you’re taking to maintain spiritual health in your marriage, family, and ministry.