Tonight is the last evening of my first ever sabbatical that began at the start of July and ends in a few hours. It’s fair to say that A LOT has changed in the last 2 months:
- I spent a week in the U.S (and got fat).
- I trained for and cycled from Holyhead to Cardiff (and got slim).
- I got to spend some quality time with my family (and got blessed).
- We transitioned out of the church we planted 9 years ago (and got sad).
- We reconnected with our sending church, Highfields (and got loved).
- We moved from Pontypool back to Cardiff (and waged war on slugs – more on that in my next post).
- We got 2 rabbits (one of which looks like Chewbacca – pictured above)
- Our kids got a new school (as of tomorrow).
- I pretty much stopped blogging!
But what I want to focus is on in this post is where I’m now at with ministry. To be honest I really wasn’t sure what 2 months ‘out of the game’ would feel like, or what effect it would have on me. It’s certainly the longest time I have not done any preaching in over 17 years and the longest I have not had to function in a church leadership position for the best part of a decade. So where does that leave me now as I’m about to dive back in to ministry?
For what it’s worth, here are my 2 overwhelming thoughts:
- I don’t NEED to be in gospel ministry
It’s been so long since I wasn’t in full-time Christian ministry that until I took a step back I could neither remember or imagine what life as a ‘normal’ Christian was like. That was kind of a scary place to be because my ‘reality’ was one of preaching, serving, leading, living and giving as both a calling and a vocation. And I love this life – especially preaching – which is what I believe God put me on this earth to do. But as any gospel minister will tell you – it’s very easy for our identity, value and worth to be rooted in our performances as preachers, our effectiveness as leaders and our fruitfulness in ministry. And that’s certainly been true of me over the years – loving it when people tell me what a wonderful message I’ve preached and feeling crushed when people have rejected or criticised me.
Which is why it was so encouraging that as I stepped out of leadership and stepped away from the pulpit I didn’t experience any of the withdrawal symptoms I expected. In fact I kind of enjoyed loving Jesus primarily as a disciple again. Studying the Bible for the sake of my own soul and the edification of my family rather than with a view to how well the stuff I was reading would ‘preach’. Praying more from a place of wonder and personal dependency than a place of pastoral obligation. Sitting with my wife in church for a WHOLE service – not just until one or both of us had to get up and minister in some capacity.It was so refreshing!And I guess what I’ve realised is that while I know that I have been gifted, called and anointed by God to preach his gospel and make disciples – I don’t NEED to do it. Now hear me right, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it – I know what my calling is and to do anything else would be rebellious and disobedient. But what I mean is that I am not primarily Dai the preacher. First and foremost I am Dai the disciple of Jesus – saved and made righteous by HIS works, not my own. Yes, I’m saved FOR good works, but they are not where my identity lies. My identity is in Jesus – the resurrected Christ.
Furthermore, before being Dai the preacher I am called to be Dai the husband, Dai the dad and Dai the faithful member of the local church. These are all far more important callings than my personal ministry and if I were to neglect those things I would be a hypocritical preacher.
So no, I don’t need ministry. I need Jesus. But by His grace I get to live and speak for Him, and so…
- I really WANT to be in gospel ministry!
As I’ve stepped back from ministry and sought to press into Jesus, serve my family and purge myself of unhealthy ministry experiences and expectations, I have (especially over recent weeks) found myself getting more and more excited to step back into the ring. There have been 2 main reasons for this:
i) Firstly, God’s Word has been getting under my skin again – encouraging me, shaking me, provoking me, reminding me that God still speaks powerfully and prophetically today. There have been several scriptures these last few months that have so stirred me that I have just had to share them with people. His Word is burning in my bones again!
ii) Secondly, as we have moved into our new inner-city neighbourhood we have been excited by so much, but have also been greatly challenged by the scale of need all around us. As I have walked the streets and started to pray, often against the backdrop of sirens, idol worship, drug dealing and broken relationships I have been reminded again that the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is the ONLY hope for our world. And I have been given the privilege to seek to share that gospel and make disciples in this new context. What an honour!
So there we have it – my post-sabbatical reflections in a nut-shell. Please do pray for me and for our family as we step back into the fray. This coming week our kids start their new school and as myself and Michelle start to explore what this new church planting, gospel-ministering, disciple-making, community-impacting adventure is going to look like for us.
BRING IT ON!!