Taking A Sabbatical

Our church constitution stipulates that the congregation must take a vote of confidence on the senior pastor at the end of the 6th year of service. The senior pastor, if he passes the vote, may take a sabbatical of up to one year. It’s time to recharge. Many pastors, when taking sabbaticals, take courses at a theological seminary, serve in a foreign mission field, or simply take time to rest. I took a vote of confidence at the end of my 6th year but I postponed taking a sabbatical because I wasn’t tired. Also, I didn’t have someone to handle pulpit duties while I was gone. So I reserved the sabbatical for a later time.

I will be taking that sabbatical this year. Not for a full year but just 10 weeks. The reason I’m taking the sabbatical now is that I was asked to write a book on leadership.

After leading several seminars on house churches for pastors I’ve realized that it’s impossible to transform conventional churches to house churches without adequate pastoral leadership. I never thought I had leadership qualities myself but the pastors who stayed with us as interns have said that the success of our house church was due to my leadership. At first I thought they said this out of courtesy, but as more and more people said the same thing it started to make an impression. Superficial humility can be a bad thing if it keeps you from developing your gifts to serve God’s kingdom. So after a while, instead of denying having leadership qualities, I decided to share about the things I’ve done to motivate lay people that God has used to bless others.

I shared this thought with a man who gave me a ride when I visited Korea last fall. He happened to be editor in chief of a monthly Christian magazine. He related my idea to a well known Christian publishing house, Kyu Jang, and they eventually asked me to write a book on leadership.

It’s impossible to simultaneously write a book and carry out my daily church responsibilities, so I decided to take a 10 week sabbatical to work on it. Instead of taking 10 consecutive weeks off, I’ll be taking 2 weeks off at a time, 5 times throughout the year.

I’ll also be visiting Korea 3 times this year for house church seminars; I believe that this year is a critical one for the success of the house church movement in Korea. I will also go to France this spring. Additionally, I’ll be turning 60 years old this fall. For Koreans, the 60th birthday is a very special occasion calling for a big celebration. But instead of throwing a big party, my children are planning a family reunion at a resort this fall.

With all these events scheduled there’s no room for other speaking engagements. So I turned down an invitation to preach at the annual KOSTA (Korean Student Abroad) convention. I also informed the Korean World Mission that I will not be able to attend this year’s meeting (it’s held every 4 years).

During my sabbatical I will stay in Houston writing. I will lead the Sunday worship services as usual, lead the weekly Bible study for seekers, and hold the weekly conference with pastors who are interning at our church. Brother Lee Soo Kwan will handle all preaching duties.

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