“While the cat’s away, the mice come out to play!” I don’t remember when or in what context I heard this aged expression, but it did come to mind when I began planning for my sabbatical this summer. The thought being that people might be tempted to “take the summer off” because I’m not there and thereby undermine Hope’s attendance, which is typically a little lower in the summer anyway. This wouldn’t be good for Hope’s summer impact.
But then I began to think my absence might provide a great test opportunity. From the day we started Hope in 2002, I have stressed that Hope is Christ’s Church and that people’s commitment to Hope shouldn’t be about me, or how Hope does things, etc., but about Jesus and His mission for His Church. That is why I frequently introduce myself on Sundays as “one of” and not “the” Pastor of Hope Chapel. It’s not about me. In fact, God help us if it is about me because that’s a real shaky foundation. So, Hope has never been about me, which means that people’s commitment to Hope shouldn’t waver depending on whether I’m there or not.
The summer of 2019 will provide a great test to see how well we are doing in that area. I know many people already have plans to be away for 2 or 3 Sundays. That’s normal because its summer. But if those “days away” don’t grow to 4, or 5 or even 6 Sundays we’ll have living proof that Hope’s commitment is where it should be …centered on Christ. My absence has nothing to do with the open door of opportunity God has given Hope to reach people far from God and lead them to be full followers of Christ. Therefore, your engagement/commitment this summer is as critical as ever.
So, here is my prayer. I am praying that Hope’s attendance this summer will be its healthiest ever. I know the preaching is going to be great…no doubt it will be an upgrade over mine. We have some fabulous opportunities to send people off on mission, to welcome new people through VBS, and to hear from a couple of missionaries about what God is doing, and to be set free by the Truth. In other words, great Kingdom opportunities are just around the corner. I trust you will be there to help Hope seize them.
I do covet your prayers for me during my sabbatical. Paul charged Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6 to “keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you.” After 17 years at Hope and 35 years in ministry my “fire” is alive and well, but it could use some special attention. So, I am seeking to disconnect some so I can more deeply connect with God’s sense of calling on my life, see more clearly His “gifting”, and listen more intently to what He is saying about how He wants to use me at Hope. Pray that the time will be well spent so He might increase and I might decrease.
Thanks for the opportunity. And I will see you this Sunday, Father’s Day.