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Redeeming Time

As I was talking with my coach leading up to my sabbatical time, he suggested I begin working on my sabbatical goals before the start of the sabbatical. No sense in waiting if the work could be done sooner. So, I began to read the book at the top of my list and then began implementing some of what I was reading several weeks ago. That book is Redeeming Your Time (RYT) by Jordan Raynor.


Redeeming Your Time was recommended as a book to help me with my sabbatical goal of establishing better rhythms of ministry. This book was meant to fit the niche of time/task management using Christ’s time on earth as a model. Having fully read it through once, it did not disappoint on why it was recommended to me.

Initially, I thought it would just be a book that would help me establish better rhythms of ministry as I look to be more productive, organized and focused on the priorities God has placed before me. Not only do I believe this book will help me make progress in those areas as I implement some of the practices into my schedule, but it has already helped me to better understand my place in the grand scheme of God’s plan for the world.

First a confession…I don’t think this is uniquely just a “me” problem, but I sometimes have this sense that the work before me is all up to me. What I mean by that is: “if I don’t get it done, it won’t get done.” I ultimately know this is not true, but I find that I can get into a bad thought process where in that moment this seems true.

If that is you, let me encourage you from Philippians 1:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

– Philippians 1:3-6 NIV

If you are like me, you likely read this from a self-centered perspective. That God will help ME finish the good work he began in me, but that is not what this says. It says that he will carry that good work on to completion until Jesus returns. It says nothing about me completing it…GOD WILL COMPLETE IT!

At first, this might seem a bit depressing since we won’t necessarily see all of the work we started through to completion. There is a newer acronym for this: FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. When we see the start of something, most of us can’t stand it when we don’t know how it ends.

Instead of FOMO, let me suggest that this can be very freeing since it is ultimately not all up to me to get everything done. If God has begun the work, we can be assured that he will finish it even if we don’t get to.

While this was not the first biblical truth Jordan writes about in RYT, but it was the first of the truths that I really needed to hear.

The second is this: “The Gospel is our source of rest and ambition.” (pg 10 of RYT)

“The gospel frees us from the need to be productive.” In other words, my salvation does not depend on how productive I am. I am saved by grace because of Jesus, not because of me. I don’t have to earn my way to heaven. That’s good news since we would all fail in that endeavor.

But then, out of my gratitude for what Jesus did comes “the burning desire to steward my time well – not because I need to be productive, but because the gospel compels me to be productive.”

I can both find rest and ambition if I hold a proper view of the gospel – I needed to hear that.

As I put the finishing touches on this post, we have arrived safely in Florida for the start of our two-week vacation where we will rest together as a family, play together as a family and create memories.

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Sabbatical

On the seventh day you shall rest…God established this as a pattern for His people from the very creation of the world. God created for 6 days and then He rested. I don’t think he really needed the rest, but He knew His creation would.

Why then do we make heroes of those who do not rest? It’s a badge of honor for some to boast of the number of hours they’ve worked in a week or even the number of consecutive days in a row worked. I've thought of myself as that hero from time to time.

When I was younger, my body and mind were able to push through that kind of schedule., But now my body goes into protest when I haven’t given it the rest it needs after a period of hard work. As the saying goes, you can do it the easy way or the hard way.

I am just a few weeks out from my first sabbatical. This is different from the regular cadence of weekly, every seventh day sabbath rest. This will be an extended period of rest and reflection after seven years in pastoral ministry.

I have been overwhelmed by the number of people in our church who have come to me after the announcement to express excitement and support of this upcoming sabbatical. I am so grateful to a church who is willing to let their pastor go for this extended time to get refreshed.

When I presented this idea to the board of elders, I had these goals in mind:

Rest

Push and push and push until one day there is nothing left in the tank: I have found myself there a few times in the last few years.

In particular, the last two years have been taxing. The pandemic has pushed and pulled our society in so many different directions and the leaders of organizations have been forced to make big decisions on a regular basis.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit how much of an impact all these decisions have had on me. It’s not easy knowing that you will be disappointing people you love and respect with every decision you make.

In the process of caring for people, you hurt with them, you are disappointed with them, you celebrate with them…the full range of emotions are experienced most weeks. If a person is not well rested the emotions can be either exaggerated beyond where they should be or dulled to the point of not feeling anything.

From time to time, I can see where the emotions I have experienced in the last year or so have fallen outside what is normal for me. And when something tragic happens like the unexpected passing of a young man, it was hard to recover back to a normal level of emotion. 

I will rest. Rest from decisions, rest from carrying the burdens of the people who call Crossroads home. This will be difficult for me because I am truly invested in and love the people I have the privilege of pastoring, but I will rest.

Reset Ministry Rhythms

For first three years, I pastored Crossroads bi-vocationally while working 50+ hours a week in the IT world. Then in 2018, I transitioned to full-time ministry in the summer. It was strange transitioning to a less structured ministry position after the structure provided in the corporate world.

I have held my own over these seven years, but I have also let a lot of people down when I’ve missed commitments I’ve made or failed to follow through on something that was my responsibility. 

Part of the reason that I’ve made so many mistakes is that I’ve lacked great organizational systems and efficient rhythms of ministry work.

I’ve already begun the process of resetting how I capture my commitments and will use some of my sabbatical time to refine and reimagine how I’ll keep things straight.

Part of this resetting will include setting a regular weekly schedule that will include a regular weekly sabbath day.

Renew the passion for my call

I know without a shadow of a doubt that God called me to pastoral ministry and He called me to pastor Crossroads. There are so many ways God has confirmed this over the years. 

There are some weeks where I not only remember, but I am passionate about what I have the privilege of doing. Then there are those weeks where I question everything about what it is that I am doing.

All throughout the Old Testament, God reminds His people of where He brought them from and where He brought them to. It is in these times of remembering that they are drawn back to the great love the Father has for His people. 

I am looking forward to spending some time asking the Father to remind me again - to just sit and reflect on the calling He has on my life and to remember all the ways He’s confirmed that.

Reconnect with my wife

The first week of the sabbatical will be spent on our relationship and how to manage the expectations of ministry with the expectations of family. Many times a marriage is left at the altar of ministry, but I don’t want that to be our story.

My coach and his wife are going to help us ask the right questions and sit long enough to get the answers. I look forward to discovering something new about my wife and our relationship during this week.

Spend some time on my hobbies.

I have two hobbies that I enjoy, but I haven’t taken the time to do much of lately: woodworking and fishing. 

I have a few woodworking projects in mind to start and a few small ones to finish up. Out on the lake, I hope to just enjoy some quiet time with a fishing rod in my hands.

Many pastors do not get the opportunity I’ve been given by my church. I hope that my story is an inspiration for other churches to make this available to their pastor at appropriate intervals.

I am so grateful that my church is giving me and my family this gift. It is a gift of time and investment in the future ministry work that will happen as a result of this time. If you are reading this and you are a part of Crossroads Christian Church in East Montpelier, Vermont, know that I am thankful for your support in this endeavor.


Your pastor, 

Thorsten Evans 

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