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The Sabbatical is Over

This week marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. As of Wednesday, September 1st, 2010, I am a full-time pastor once again, serving at Grace Lutheran Church in Andover, MN. My official title is Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministries.

The irony is that for the past three years I said I would never be in full-time ministry again. I’ve been working my fingers off to build up Spot Studios. How could I just let it fall to the wayside like that?

The answer is simple. Grace.

When we moved to Minnesota we had nothing, really. I had spent the past twelve years in ministry. From 1994 – 2002 I ran on the treadmill of the mega church while working on my M.Div. In 2002 I stepped off that treadmill and experimented with house church. Things started well, and I think we did some good things, but it ended with pain. In January of 2007 we pulled the plug on Hart Haus, and I was left with only Spot Productions as my source of income.

Looking back on it from this side of the last three years, I’ve come to understand two things. First, the deeper your passion is for something, the more painful it is when you either fail at it or are hurt by it. In order to protect yourself from being hurt by that object of your passion again, you make silly vows like, “I will never do that again.” That’s understandable. No one likes pain, really…at least I don’t.

The second thing I’ve come to understand is that God gave me a gift. Silence. When our house didn’t sell and we were caught in a state of limbo for a year, just floating and waiting, my mind and spirit was able to settle. It was as if God wrapped my soul in a thick, dark, warm, safe cast. He whispered, “be still and know that I am God.” It was a God-induced, and much needed, Sabbatical. A year to rest and to regroup.

Here’s another amazing piece of the story. Around the same time that God was closing down Hart Haus, He was stirring up Grace Lutheran Church and setting them on a journey called Focus 20/20. As they were in the process of discovering that they needed to focus on Spiritual Formation and bring on an associate pastor to help them in that area, God was telling me to move to Minnesota. I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me. And, just at the right time, God brought us together. I think that’s pretty cool.

And then, one more thing. At the beginning of the year I dipped my toes back in the water of church ministry, still a little gun shy. By March I was hooked, had fallen in love with Grace, and totally surrendered to God to be used however he wanted. During that same time the church was looking for a Youth Pastor. I wasn’t involved in the search and was still getting to know people, so when I heard God tell me that I could work with the youth, I was confused and pushed it to the side. All summer I watched as the search committee interviewed candidates and I brushed away God’s voice like it was a pesty fly buzzing in my ear. Then, in August, after all the candidates fell through, the buzzing grew so loud that I couldn’t ignore it anymore and I had a sit-down with Pastor Mark. I surrendered, I offered myself to help lead the youth ministry and rebuild it at whatever capacity I could.

Now, the sabbatical is over. I’m full time again. It is my privilege to bring leadership and teaching to the people of Grace. It is my calling to guide in spiritual formation in the lives of people, starting in 6th grade and reaching all the way to our Graceful Seniors and beyond. My prayer is that I will be an open vessel of God’s grace and a useful resource for those who want to grow deeper in their relationship with God.

I have reconnected to my life verse. I echo Paul’s prayer for his people in Philippi as I pray for the people of Grace:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

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Comments
  • Lu September 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Steve,
    In some ways, I identify with what you wrote. Living here on Prairie Dog has been a refuge for me and I feel after 5 years of being spiritually unsettled that I have found a church home in South Hills under Kevin Wehr’s leadership and revamping of the church. I am stepping back into women’s ministry, one foot in but feeling the nudge to end my sabbatical and start serving the poor once again. I am gun shy at the step of stepping into ministry again but all I am saying now is “Yes, Lord.” Thanks for writing this. It put words to what I am feeling and have been going through these past 5 years beyond mega church.

    • stevethomason September 4, 2010 at 8:42 am

      thanks for your comments. It is a wonderful journey, isn’t it.

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