Sunday, June 23, 2019

Spiritual Disciplines of a Leader: Sabbath

Today is part 3 of our summer series, The Spiritual Disciplines of a Leader. If you'd like to read the previous posts in the series, here is part 1 and part 2

The Sabbath. It’s one of the ten commandments. We’re supposed to “keep” it. But what even is it?

In my mind, the Sabbath was a day I wasn’t allowed to do anything fun, productive, or even relatively normal on Sundays. I could go to church, and that was about it.

But I’ve been looking into this Sabbath thing, and it’s so much more! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1.    Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word SHABAT. It means to stop; to cease; to be complete; to celebrate. (Garden City, p. 186)
2.    “It is a day of celebration and delight.” - John Mark Comer. The Sabbath is time set apart for joy in our relationship with God.
3.    It is blessed and holy. Not a specific calendar day, but time itself. The Jewish Sabbath is from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, and other denominations designate Sunday as the Sabbath. The specific day or time itself isn’t as important as the discipline of setting a regular time each week.
4.    It is time for rest and worship (A holy sabbath unto the Lord - Garden City, p. 192). The Sabbath is not a day we’re not allowed to do things, like I thought. Anything we do can go through these two questions as a filter: Is it rest? Is it worship? If so, go for it! If not, wait for another day. The Sabbath is going to look as unique as each of us!
5.      It is not just a “day off.” A Sabbath isn’t a day to catch up on errands, power through a to-do list, or check your work emails from home. It’s also probably not a day to zone out watching TV or scrolling on social media. Sabbath is an intentional time to connect with God and our community.

I’ve been experimenting with my Sabbath for a few months. I love going to a coffee shop to read, study, and write. Often, my Sabbaths include a hike or run, since I love being outside. Sometimes I’ll cook some good meals. I don’t do laundry on a Sabbath. Pretty simple!

But depending on your work, ministry, family, or other situations, it might not feel so simple for you to keep a Sabbath. Think out of the box to put the Sabbath into practice in your own life! Don’t be afraid to experiment week by week.

Do you work on weekends?

Pick any day of the week for a Sabbath - it doesn’t have to be Saturday or Sunday! It’s not about a day, it’s about time spent intentionally. Do what works for you.

Don’t think you have space in your schedule? 

If you can’t take a full day, start by creating a block of several hours in your week where you can disconnect from all the noise around you and connect with God. Take the time you do have, and add more when you are ready to make more time for Sabbath.

Do you have kids and a spouse to figure into a Sabbath practice?

Invite them to practice Sabbath with you! Trade off with your spouse so you each get some solitude at some point during the day. Take the family to play at a park or make a fun meal together as a treat. Make new traditions or have a Sabbath game/toy box that only comes out on Sabbath. It can be a day for the whole family to look forward to!

Does your ministry or work keep you feeling “on” all the time?

If you don’t feel like you can step back and be unavailable for a set amount of time, now’s a great time to start practicing healthy boundaries. Set auto-responses on your email and phone to let people know when you’ll be out of touch, and when to expect a response. You’ll be able to engage more fully by taking time to be “off” and more present to your relationship with God and your family and/or community.

Not sure what to “do” on a Sabbath?

So many possibilities, but having a hard time deciding? Think about a vacation that you’ve enjoyed. What did you like about it? I explore, eat great food, read, and ignore the clock. So I do those things on my Sabbath! Let your vacations or other times of rest inspire you to celebrate and delight on your Sabbath. Just remember, rest and worship are the goal.

Have you practiced keeping a Sabbath? What does your Sabbath look like?

If you want to learn more about the Sabbath, check out the following resources:


Written by Camber McKenzie.

Camber McKenzie is a volunteer Young Life leader in Steamboat Springs, CO, and has an MBA from Regent University. She gets excited about books, impromptu dance parties, and doing anything outdoors.

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