Addicted to Public Productivity (A Case For Sabbatical)

Last week on this blog I shared on “Megachurch Pastor Pete Wilson Burns Out.” What’s your response to this story? Sadly, some people are critical of Pete.

The leader of one of America’s fastest growing churches admitted to the world he was “leading on empty.”

The pastor who welcomed imperfect people to receive God’s grace confessed, “I’m not OK. I’m tired. And I’m broken. And I just need some rest.”

Let’s give grace to hard-working pastors and leaders like Pete!

Pete’s Sabbatical Got Interrupted

From someone who attends Crosspoint, the church Pete planted and grew to 7,500, I learned that he resigned halfway into a six-week Sabbatical that wasn’t working for him or his family.

He went to his elders and said he couldn’t take a sabbatical because people kept coming to him with questions and needing things from him. He couldn’t get the rest he needed.

This is not an isolated story. “Pastor Stress Statistics” show that 85% of pastors have never taken a Sabbatical.

And when pastors do take a Sabbatical often it’s focused on planning sermons, visiting churches to get ideas, reading leadership books, writing their own book, or discerning a new vision for the church.

These are all good things, but they’re not extended Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:1-13).

Pete Was Lured by Public Productivity

Back in 2009 Pete wrote for the Catalyst blog on “The Lure of Public Productivity.”

We live in a culture (including the church) that values and even demands public productivity while downplaying and often all together ignoring personal introspection.
This addiction to “Public Productivity” is strong. Most of us get quite a few accolades for the hard work we put in at the office.

When I work a 15-hour day I often feel a great sense of accomplishment. I love the high-risk decisions, the writing under pressure, and the raw excitement of ministry. In fact, being loved for public productivity can be exhilarating and addictive. It feeds my ego.

This is why so many people end up with an inflated ego and a deflated family.

Sabbatical as a War on Productivity Addiction

Church leaders, elders, and business people often don’t understand the unrelenting demands of professional ministry and why it’s so important that pastors who help others to rest in God do extensive training to eat the food they’re cooking for others.

Even John Piper had to learn this the hard way a few years ago. He had taken a Sabbatical to write a book, but later realized, “In thirty years I have never let go of my passion for public productivity.” He was still tired.

He admitted that the pride of accomplishment in ministry had “taken a toll” on his then 41-year marriage to Noël. “The precious garden of my home needs tending,” he pleaded.

So in 2010 the elders of Bethlehem Church gave him his first true Sabbatical. “I am making war on my sins [of pride],” he announced to his church.

Pastor John Piper let go of all public productivity. “No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements.”

Help For Pastor Sabbaticals

If you’re a pastor Kristi and I hope that you and your spouse would be blessed with a Sabbatical.

If you’re an elder or church leader we hope that you’ll help your pastor and spouse take a Sabbatical.

For help planning and getting the most out of your sabbatical, check out our Sabbatical Guide. It is our hope at Soul Shepherding that through our resources you would find encouragement and tools to help you receive fully, all that God has for you.

We also offer an online Sabbatical Guide course. This program has everything you need to experience rest and renewal on your Sabbatical. 



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