What a ride we've been on over these last 15 years, we actually planted a church that planted a network of churches, it has been an amazing ride. As I reflect on all God has done and His faithfulness to us as a church there was so much to celebrate that it would take a small book to include everything. Let me just say to each of you, I'm honored to be the lead pastor of Higher Expectations Community Church and look forward to the next season of what God will be doing with this ministry.
By now you've heard that I'm taking eight weeks away on a sabbatical, which for some is a foreign concept. So, what is ministry sabbatical and why it is so important? The word “Sabbatical comes from the word Sabbath, which means to stop working and to rest. A Sabbatical is a period of time where you stop working and seek a period of intentional rest, renewal and personal refreshment. The aim is to return to the work of ministry rejuvenated for the journey ahead.
Jesus in Mark 6:31 modeled for us the need to get away from the daily rigors and constant pull of ministry to spend intentional and intense time with God the Father. He (Jesus) model what a healthy rhythm of work and rest should look like, in honesty, I've neglected these rhythms. Dell and I along with the elders and some close friends sensed that something was off, I was working longer and longer to keep the mission and vision of the church moving, sleeping less, eating poorly, and experiencing some unique health challenges.
My closest mentors begin to challenge me that I (we) needed a season of rest, but at every opportunity there seem to be another crisis, hurricanes, tropical storms, land acquisitions, building delays and setbacks, members in crisis, untimely deaths, churches to plant, leaders to develop, ministry team departures and then COVID19 took us all by surprise. The pressure, pastoral and personal losses in the last year have been enormous on our church and in my personal life.
Through each crisis I turned to my previous military training, "Accomplish the Mission at All Cost", this meant ruck up and fight through until reinforcements arrive, the strange thing about ministry there are often no reinforcements, just the allusion that we are winning the war raging against our souls. Studies have shown that eighty percent of pastors that start in ministry will not finish, I wish I could say this wasn't true but the fact that eighty percent of the guys I started out with some 15 years ago are no longer in ministry speaks for itself.
My goal is not to join this daunting statistic by making the mid-course correction and reestablishing some ancient spiritual practices, setting boundaries and renewing healthy rhythms that will lead to both Dell and I souls being refreshed. Let me remind us again of why we (My Family and I) are taking 2 months of sabbatical to rest, renew and be revived, so that I can lead well into the future and continue the mission of reaching people, transforming lives and making Jesus’ famous with all of you. Our sabbatical will begin the week of June 27, 2021 and conclude the week of August 15, 2021.
The elders and leaders of HEC are highly capable and faithful men and women, they are all proven leaders and will work as a unified team to serve the church in my absence. I ask that you be the church that I brag about at every opportunity, I’m trusting God that your will be faithful and fruitful during this time and give the church your full support with your time, talent and financial giving.
Pastor DaRell Davis will be leading the congregation as our interim lead pastor; he has been at my side for nearly 10 years. He has served as our minister of music, youth and young adult pastor, and in every capacity needed, but in earnest, he has been our Associate Pastor, carrying the load of ministry daily while maintaining full time employment in the marketplace. Like Timothy to Paul, he is my true son in the faith, (1 Timothy 1:2) I only ask you to support and serve with him as he leads our church family during this season.
Lastly, I ask that you pray for us as this year represents a key life transition for us, our youngest will be leaving soon for college at Baylor University to pursue her dream of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. This also means Dell and I will have a considerable amount of time on our hand when this sabbatical is over, we want to be wise with our time, gifts and commitment moving forward.
Here's how you can pray for us.
1. Pray for rest and that we are refreshed by God
2. Pray for wisdom to live and lead well moving forward
3. Pray for peace, protection, provision and purpose to be fulfilled in our lives
4. Pray for our love for God, the church and for each other to continue to grow
5. Pray for our family to be drawn closer to God in authentic relationships
6. Pray for increased and bold faith to be an active part of our lives
7. Pray for a healthy ministry rhythm and renewed health
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Bryant and Dell Lee