A Time of Rest & Renewal
As our past seven years have played out together, I’ve learned of other pastor/shepherds who have hit crisis points in their lives and had to go into crisis mode to address it. While I am not at the point of burnout, I’ve been listening and wanting to learn, recognizing that I am, in no way, exempt from the possibilities that led to my colleagues’ situations.
I have been strongly encouraged by many leaders in my life to consider times and seasons of rest and renewed investment into self, and I want to let you know that I, with the blessing of the staff and board of our synagogue, have decided to take a sabbatical of fourteen weeks from September 23 to the end of December.
Our board has been planning and discussing this sabbatical for the last three years. We have been preparing and seeking God as to how it would work and what it would look like.
I want to be among you as Rabbi for a long time. Seven years in, I want to at least double our time together. I love you and want to walk with you. The truth for any of us is the truth of my life: we belong to the Lord Yeshua, and we are called to obedience. With that in mind, my life is not my own, but I’ve told the Lord that I would love to stay on mission in his kingdom at Restoration for many more years to come. And we want those years to be healthy. So I take this sabbatical as a release to the Lord for more to come, believing that there is an expansion coming both personally and corporately.
Here’s the truth: I have so loved walking among you for seven years that I want to do everything in my power to be ready for more.
It has been said, “A ministry sabbatical is a release from the routine of the call for the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual well-being of the ministry leader.” And I am hoping for God to do more than I can imagine with this time.
It started with my family coming to lead Beit Messiah seven years ago and then our name change and replanting of Restoration almost four years ago. I have come to love the city of Seattle and I love what God is doing in our congregation. I believe that in this past year our leadership has made some serious strides to prepare our synagogue for unprecedented growth. I am convinced that a time of rest, renewal of relationship with Yeshua, deepening of my roots, time with my family, and time to write will help prepare me for the next phase of ministry.
What will I do in my time away?
The sabbatical will begin with four weeks with my family in Jerusalem, which will include Yom Kippur and Sukkot. I am very excited for this opportunity for my family to celebrate the High Holy Days in Jerusalem, a commandment in the Torah, and help my family grow in our Jewish identity as followers of Yeshua. Following our time in Jerusalem we will spend two weeks in New York with my parents, which lets be honest is mostly for pizza and bagels.
The rest of the sabbatical will be in Seattle with one trip for Laura and I away from our children and a trip by myself to be with my best friend in Philly. We will not attend Restoration during this time but will participate in a variety of other congregations for our edification as a family.
For the majority of the fourteen weeks, I will spend the mornings writing a book on the Jewish context of Peter and Paul in the book of Acts from the series I preached recently. I also have several books that I will be reading on rest, spiritual growth, and healthy leadership during the sabbatical.
There are several leaders in my life that I will remain accountable to during my sabbatical and I hope to have made some serious progress in writing, hearing God’s voice, dreaming for the future, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
What will Restoration do in my time away?
I am excited for Aybars Uckun to lead our synagogue during this time. Aybars has proven to be a faithful follower of Yeshua, a devoted husband and father, a constant encourager, and an excellent preacher of the Word of God. This experience will be an incredible opportunity for Aybars to grow as a leader. Please trust him, love him, and help him serve the Lord to the best of his ability. The board of Restoration along with Aybars will not make any major decisions without me during this time as our budget, preaching, and ministry plans will be set for 2018 before I leave at the end September.
Starting after the High Holy Days we will begin a year of following the Torah and Haftarah cycle. Aybars will preach three different series through the book of Genesis. When I return in January we will go through the book of Exodus and will continue through September of 2018 going through the Torah readings. If you are not familiar with the Torah cycle, you can look it up on the Restoration app by clicking on the “Torah Readings Tab.” We will also have paper copies of the yearly cycle available after the High Holy Days at the Connect table in the lobby.
To help Aybars do more than just preach during these 14 weeks, we have invited four local pastors to speak, between series, into the life of our congregation. These four pastors - Chris Manginelli, Matt Elser, Brad Barshaw, and Mike Labrum - are trusted friends and excellent preachers, and they have agreed to speak into the life of Restoration in this season.
We are better together!
Let me say again, I am not burnt out and I am not leaving Restoration. My desire and prayer to God is that I will be in Seattle, in ministry, for a very long time and this sabbatical is a preventative measure to keep me in ministry for many years to come.
I love you and I am grateful to God for calling me, like Abraham, to leave the land of my fathers (New York) and come to a place I know not (Seattle). It will be difficult to disconnect for these 14 weeks, but I am believing that God will renew me in a fresh way that can only come from disconnecting from the pressures of doing ministry, so that I can be ministered to.
I invite you to pray for me, as I will continue to pray for you, during this sabbatical. Please be in prayer for Aybars and our board as they take on more ministry in my absence. Also, pray for our community that God will encourage us and renew us for the next season of what we hope will be a time of significant growth. Pray that we will see many people, Jew and Gentile, come to know Yeshua and learn what it means to become fully devoted followers of our Messiah.
As a side note, I am hopeful that the NBA and the Supersonics will return to Seattle soon after my sabbatical, and we can all join in prayer for that! Can I get an “Amen!” (don’t try to crush my dreams).
This I know for sure: the best is yet to come for our synagogue, and more than ever, we are better together! I love this family that God has given me and I can't thank you enough for your support in this time of rest, renewal, and writing.