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Sabbatical Information and Questions
What Is a Sabbatical or Pastoral Spiritual Renewal?
“Sabbatical” derives from the biblical term, “Sabbath.” Keeping Sabbath is initiated by  with God Himself. “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all His work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (Genesis 2:2-3). Sabbath means “to cease” or “to rest.” Scripture guides us by three Sabbath-keeping practices:
Sabbath Day begun as a weekly observance solely for the cessation of work to renew people in body, mind, and spirit.
Sabbath Year every seven years when all crop bearing land would be allowed to lie
fallow so the earth could rest and be replenished for future harvests.
Year of Jubilee celebrated every 50 years with no harvest or rent, but instead, debt forgiveness, restoration and the making of offerings.

Sabbath rhythms– ceasing, resting, renewing, and refilling–are part of healthy patterns and paces of work and play, production and reflection, giving out and taking in.


What makes up a Sabbatical?
It is an intentional season to withdraw and disengage from daily concerns and obligations of pastoral ministry including the usual routine of sermon preparation and preaching, meetings, counseling, weddings, funerals, and the administration of day-to-day church happenings and the constant shepherding of people. The weight Paul carried in his concern and love for the Church was continual and intense. His constant longing for people to encounter the grace of God was coupled with the spiritual warfare and the natural disappointments he faced. (See 2 Corinthians 11:26 – 27)

What will you do on Sabbatical?
It is structured for some intentional time initially to withdraw and make sure Nancy and I are leading from a healthy place. We will visit other churches to worship and reflect, write, and listen carefully to God. It will also be a time to connect with life – giving relationships including friends, family, and mentors. There will be extended time of rest and refreshment to just “be”. Sabbaticals allow for breathing room, freedom from details, and attending to the soul.


What are Joe’s goals for this time?
The primary goal is to hear from God about the next season of ministry. He will spend time connecting with God, Nancy, others, and himself through pastoral counseling and connection. He will write and discern how to finish life and ministry well. He will reflect on the next five years of ministry at FBC. He will disconnect and rest.

Where did this idea come from?
It was a part of FBC Seminole policy and church bylaws before he arrived to provide times of sabbatical rest and renewal for pastors who have 5+ years at FBC. It isn’t a knee jerk reaction to an issue or crisis. Sabbaticals help facilitate and sustain pastoral and congregational health. It’s not a time to search out new venues or places of ministry.

Why now?
It is part of God’s design and the practice of First Baptist Church. Covid is a unique stressor in everyone’s life. In addition, the enemy, the Evil One targets spiritual leadership with unique discouragement and drain during a difficult period of church life. In addition, a major role of pastoral leadership is to engage God’s people for ministry by using their gifts to serve others. Leading volunteers through training, aligning to vision, and shared mission is a huge challenge. The absence of the lead pastor strengthens him and the congregation in various ways.

How long will Pastor Joe be gone?
Five Weeks beginning July 5 through August 12.

Will Nancy be on Sabbatical with Pastor Joe?

Who will cover Pastor’s responsibilities?
Preaching- We will have a mix of our staff and church leaders along with outside speakers. We are putting intentional effort into equipping and investing in FBC during sabbatical.

Day to Day Operations– Our pastoral team led by Sean Decker along with the administrative staff of Margie Emig and Laura Wilbanks are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the office. A leadership team, a component of our Constitution and Bylaws, will meet as needed as well.

Pastoral Care/Weddings/Funerals– Connect groups will minister to our church body. Pastor Joe will be advised by the leadership team (through Sean Decker) of any emergency situations. Hospital visits are difficult with new protocols, but the deacons will continue to help with this ministry. Pastoral staff, lay ministers, and outside resources are available for weddings and funerals.

How does this benefit FBC?
Ministry will continue as new opportunities will emerge! Unique and fun opportunities will be available over the summer. It is important to remember that Pastoral Spiritual Renewal is a two-way process: while Pastor Joe is on his journey of sabbatical renewal, rest, discernment, and reflection, FBC will embark on a journey as well – embracing this season for our own reflection and renewed focus on God’s call to be His Body.

Will Pastor Joe be in contact with us while he is on his sabbatical?
An important piece of the process is to disengage from the constancy of daily demands. Pastor Joe will be contacted for extraordinary emergencies by the leadership team.

Who pays for the Pastoral Spiritual Renewal?
His salary will continue, and funds are available for sabbatical expenses including travel, lodging, retreats, books, and the resources. Pastor has some funds available in his ministry budget for such items. Offerings for this ministry are gratefully accepted. You can designate it “Pastor’s Sabbatical” on an envelope or online. Budget and Finance prepared for additional ministry expenses that will be required. You can also purchase books or audio that Pastor Joe plans to use.