Why would I choose to take a six-week “sabbatical” from my ministry at The Connection Church? First, I haven’t lost my mind or gone off the deep-end. In fact, all things considered, I’m doing pretty well. I absolutely love my Connection Church family. I honestly wouldn’t want to do anything else with my life other than lead The Connection Church to continue to share the love, hope, and message of Jesus with the Hill Country of South Central Texas. For the last 13 years, my prayer has been that God will allow me to invest the rest of my life into the mission of The Connection Church.
So why would I choose to press the pause button and intentionally take a sabbatical break? The answer is: because I want to do everything I can to go the distance!
Ministry is a long marathon, not a short sprint.
By The Numbers
Sadly, according to recent national statistics from Barna Research, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, almost 1500 pastors leave their ministry positions each month due to spiritual burnout, moral failures, or issues in the church. 80% of pastors feel discouraged in their roles. 50% of pastors say they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living. 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates leave the ministry within the first 5 years. 70% of pastors constantly fight depression. Only 1 out of 10 pastors retire as a pastor. Those numbers are shocking and sobering.
Even though these statistics have never described me, I have no intention of becoming another statistic.
Usually, by the time a pastor realizes he needs a break, it is already too late.
I have now been in ministry for 29 years, 22 of those have been full-time. I am naturally a pretty driven person. After high school, I spent an additional 13 years in school, until I earned my doctorate. In my life and work, I want to succeed no matter the odds. Since 2004, we have overcome many seemingly insurmountable challenges in this Connection journey.
A New Season
Now, Pam and I are getting ready to enter into a new season of life: the empty nest. This will be a period of adjusting to some new realities in our marriage. The health of our marriage affects the marriages of those we lead. So I want to ensure that we are entering this new season stronger and more in love than ever before. This pause is going to give us the chance to focus in on setting new patterns to grow in our relationship as a couple.
What is a Sabbatical?
Balance is an illusion because not everything in life is equal.
The goal is not to be a well-balanced person, but to keep the right rhythm that God set in place at creation. When God created the world, He worked for 6 days and rested on the seventh. If God Himself rested, how much more do we need to practice the Sabbath.
Many people in ministry would never consider lying, cheating, stealing, or killing. But for some reason, we’ve made the Sabbath optional. In fact, it’s right up there in God’s Big Ten! In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was not just a weekly pattern, but also set up in years and decades.
In Leviticus 25, God highlights the importance of a rest every 7 years for the fields, the people, and as a Sabbath to their Creator. Though we are no longer bound to the law of the Old Testament (Romans 7), there are principles contained in those books that still apply today, and there is a fundamental principle of taking a sabbatical every 7 years.
Ministry is Warfare
One of the pictures of ministry in the New Testament is the idea of a soldier in the military. In 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul writes, “Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.” Leading a church on mission for Jesus often involves intense spiritual warfare. At The Connection Church, we have been blessed to have a lot of peace through this journey. But it hasn’t been totally conflict-free. If we’re not careful, this can lead to pastors developing a form of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
As crazy as it sounds, taking this time off will be a challenge for me. As an entrepreneur with the spiritual gift of apostleship, I am highly self-motivated. No one has to get me out of bed in the morning to get moving. I love the Church, and I love the Connection Church! For me and my family, given the choice, we love to hang out at The Connection Church no matter what’s happening! Almost all of my friends are at The Connection Church. It’s my baby. So, while I will be attending services somewhere during this break, it’s going to be a discipline to keep a little distance from my home church.
What’s Happening At The Connection Church during this time?
We are not marking time! We have an exciting message series happening in August called Preachers From Outer Space where we are bringing in some of the best preachers in the known galaxy to inspire and challenge us to greater heights. I promise you, you don’t want to miss a single week, because it’s gonna be OUT OF THIS WORLD!
I plan to renew, refresh, plan, and grow during this pause so we can ramp up our momentum when I get back. This Fall is going to be our best ever with the launch of our second campus, The Connection Church San Marcos. We will be hitting it harder than ever before. All the more reason for the timing of this sabbatical.
What if The Connection Church grows during your time off?
What If!?! I am counting on our church growing and being even stronger when I return on September 5th. That will be a mark of maturity for our team and our entire church. Make no mistake, I will not be celebrating our church struggling during this time as if I’m indispensable. The Connection Church is built on the foundation of Jesus to fulfill God’s purpose through teamwork, not on the pastor. So now is the time for everyone to engage, not to sit back and wait for my return.
What Can I Do?
You can make a difference by praying for me and my family, praying for our staff and church family, our resources, leaders, and mission. You can serve faithfully. And most of all, continue reaching out to the hurting and lost in our community and inviting them to The Connection Church. And if someone asks you, “Where is Pastor Cole?” Assure them: I will be back before you know it and be ready to lead The Connection Church to charge the gates of Hell with a squirt gun!