Below is the letter from Danny regarding his family’s upcoming sabbatical that was read at LIFEgroups during recent elder visits. In the coming week, we will add at least one additional post with answers to questions covered during these visits. In addition, at the end of this and future posts we will provide ways in which you can pray for Danny and Charity and the kids during their sabbatical.
In 2006, I heard John MacArthur share on the benefits of 30 years in ministry at one local church. (That means he is now up to 40+ years at Grace Community Church!) This was the first time I was really introduced to the idea of a pastor staying long term in one location. Growing up, it seemed pastors either were only in the church for a few uncomfortable years that everyone was anticipating would end (either by the pastor’s choice, or the congregation), or just about the time that a church felt comfortable with their pastor, he would announce to the congregation he was moving on. This created a constant instability. Either you knew your pastor was struggling and wondered when he’d be gone, or you felt the pastor was flourishing and wondered when he was moving on to something “bigger and better.” But what MacArthur was sharing was different. There was a beauty and peace to the stability he was describing, both for the congregation and in the soul of the pastor.
We had just made the transition to me being the Teaching Pastor at that time. I remember returning from the conference and speaking of my heart’s intention to stay at Grace for the long haul. I was convinced that the greatest challenges and greatest fruit would come through serving in one congregation. I remain drawn to that vision. It hasn’t waivered.
Interestingly though, not everyone was thrilled when I shared this vision. Several people came to me and told me they thought it was presumptuous that I would declare I’m staying for life. “What if the church doesn’t want that? Is that really your decision to make?” they asked. Their questions bring out an interesting tension. The day is coming when my ministry at Grace will come to an end. That decision could be made by the Lord in taking me home. That decision could also be made by the elder team, as we would discuss the need for a transition. One of my fears in ministry is that I will outstay my welcome and usefulness to the church. I have regularly reminded the elders this is a conversation we will need to be proactive to have and not wait until it is awkwardly obvious to all. That said, we’ve never come close to that conversation, and quite honestly, I’m praying it’s at least another 15 years from now!
My heart’s desire is to stay for many, many, many years to come. That said, I recognize that decision is not completely mine to make. Whether initiated by me or by other elders, they day may come when we begin to discern a different calling for the Wrights and for Grace. My highest calling and responsibility is not being on staff. The day may come when serving my calling as Charity’s husband or our children’s father may require that I step away from my current position. Those are all realities that could be around the corner, realities which you and I cannot currently see. And for that reason, it seems irresponsible to absolutely promise I’m not going anywhere.
That said, these are realities are around hidden corners. I don’t anticipate or see anything in sight that gives me pause. It’s not just that I don’t see anything around the corner, I don’t know that I even see a corner up ahead! I’m pretty sure the elders would share the same thing. I’m not aware of any significant frustrations that an elder has with me, other than some of their wives don’t appreciate my excessive use of puns from the pulpit! My wife and kids are happy and enjoying this season in ministry. I believe in all integrity your elder team can look at you and state it is not out of any hidden reason, or unusual concern of unhealthy conditions (We are all unhealthy in some fashion, that’s why I used the term “unusual concern.”) that we are taking this sabbatical at this time. Our desire is that this sabbatical is in preparation for a long and fruitful season ahead!
How to pray during the Sabbatical
- Safety and health for the Wrights during this time.
- Pray that the Wrights experience rest, renewal and even repentance where necessary.
- Pray that the experience of so much “family time” would be a formative (and enjoyable) time for all.
- Pray for the elders and staff as their load increases, and for those who also help out in unique ways.
- Pray that Danny would be encouraged both by his “replace-ability” (the Lord builds His church, not Danny) as a pastor at Grace, but also would rejoice in his unique calling there.
- Pray that Grace would see in fresh ways how the church is more than any one person’s ministry, yet also rejoice in the unique role He has given each of us at Grace.
To that end, pray that the mission of Grace would continue to move forward even as we experience a unique season.