One of the best parts of my sabbatical this summer has been sitting on the other side of the pulpit. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.
I’m hungry. Ravenous, actually. I know some pastors don’t feel this when on sabbatical, but I look forward to Sunday mornings. My soul is starved for corporate worship.
I want something substantive. In short, I want to encounter God and his gospel. When you’re hungry you don’t have time for the spiritual equivalent of fast food. I’ve found myself wanting to enter God’s presence, to be reminded of what’s important, to be reshaped by my connection with his church, and to be challenged from God’s Word. I haven’t been disappointed either. That’s happened every week.
I need consistency. For some good reasons, some pastors visit a number of other churches while on sabbatical. I felt that we needed consistency this summer. While part of me wishes I could have seen some of my pastor friends in action, that’s not what we needed. I’ve really appreciated being plugged in one community these three months.
And yet we’re still, in a sense, tourists. We’re not completely enmeshed. Part of this is nice: I don’t know all the messy, behind-the-scenes parts of this community’s life. But there’s something that’s lost as well. We’ve stayed for lunch, so to speak, but we haven’t been asked to do the dishes. If we were staying longer, I’d like to be asked.
I appreciate the Lord’s Supper even more. We’ve only missed Communion one week, and I noticed. I love this part of the service. It never gets old. I remember hearing about a church that approached a consultant on how to make their corporate worship more multi-sensory. He asked them, “Have you tried Communion?” Every week we’re reminded through multiple senses what Christ has done for us.
I’ve enjoyed a rotation of preachers. There’s something to be said for sharing the preaching load. It’s added to the richness of the preaching, and has helped guard against the whole thing becoming personality-driven.
The music has been so good it’s almost unnoticed. Maybe it’s because it fits into the liturgy so well, or because it’s understated, but the focus is not on the music itself, but rather on the one being worshiped.
I love sitting beside my family during a sermon. I don’t know why, but it’s nice to experience all elements of corporate worship together.
If you’re a pastor and have never done so, I hope you get to experience life on the other side of the pulpit. It’ll probably be good for you. It was for me.