In a week and a half I head off on a 12-week Clergy Leave/Sabbatical. Which the Lilly Endowment Inc. is helping to pay for. So over the last few weeks I have been doing my ministry stuff at TUMC while at the same time taking care of planning details for sabbatical.
Part of what is going on, you know, is sorting out what I should be doing...and what my essential role is here at Trinity. Over the last week or so I have felt like a hiker who is unloading his pack. Sorting through it. Deciding what needs to be carried along in the trail and what needs to be left behind -or handed to others.
The sabbatical is nudging me to ask some tough questions about what it is I do at Trinity. Am I doing the right things? Am I doing too much? Am I getting in the way of others when they could do a much better job than me at some ministry task?
So I have been sorting through my pack. More and more I have been saying "No."
A friend in the community asked if I could help raise $50,000 between now and next Friday for something in the community. I said I couldn't do that.
Another person asked me to make contacts regarding a multi-million dollar campaign to rebuild our Christian camping facilities at Epworth Forest. Between today and next Friday. I said I couldn't do that.
A third person, a pastor in Southern Indiana, asked if I could pull together some ideas about recruiting young Christians into the ministry. I said, "No, I can't do that between now and next Friday."
So I am saying "No" a lot. Sorting things out. Putting things down. Handing things off. Or simply realizing that something isn't mine to deal with...worry about.
I told someone what I am doing is going around turning off switches. He responded, "When you get back think twice before you turn the switches back on. Ask yourself if you want to start doing what you were doing before you went away." It was good advice: I want to do ministry differently when I return in three months. Because sometimes I think I am working hard at good stuff while neglecting even more essential kingdom work.
Jesus talks about seeking first the kingdom. Which involves sorting. Making some decisions about life and priorities and time and energy.
I am turning out the light switches. And I will pray before starting to turn them on when I return.