This past Saturday my husband, Mark, went out of town unexpectedly leaving me with an entire day to myself (plus a dog and two cats). I decided to take advantage of the time alone by taking a Sabbatical day. Most full time ministers such as Pastors get paid days off, often as much as one day per month, with the understanding that they will use the time to get closer to God and listen to His plans for the ministry. Some churches call this day a spiritual day, others call it a sabbatical day. This day is different from the extended sabbatical some Pastors are required to take every few years in that the intent is not to take a break from the ministry and do something different but to do something different in order to more easily hear what God has to say about the ministry. I believe that this spiritual sabbatical day benefits not only Pastors, but everyone – including a Christian music minister – who is involved in ministry. You may want to consider regular sabbatical days for all the members of your Christian Band.
There are no rules for what a sabbatical day looks like! The goal is simply to do whatever it takes for you to hear more clearly from God. For some people this means removing all distractions and/or making themselves slightly uncomfortable by doing things like fasting or camping. For me, it’s all about the comfort. I do not listen as well when I am cold or hungry or decaffeinated because I get distracted. Camping is simply not in my vocabulary and I already have a fasting plan in action. So, I made a huge pot of coffee and had chocolate on hand. Meals were leftovers heated in the microwave and my snugly aphgan was in my favorite seat. I know it’s lazy, but truth is I hung out in my p.j.’s all day. I lit candles (to help kill the smell of my stinky dog who needed a bath) and closed the curtains (to trick the neighbor kids into thinking no one was home). I find it difficult to listen to Christian music without analyzing it, so I put on light classical in the background. But all this set up is completely subjective, this is what was best for me – you need to do whatever it takes to make it easiest for you to hear from God!
Tools for a Spiritual Sabbatical Day
There are a few items I have found to be indispensable when I’m listening to God for specific direction:
• Pens – My memory is not as accurate as I would prefer (check out this post for a better description of this phenomenon), so I write everything down. I also tend to misplace my pens. I keep several on hand so I do not get distracted by starting to look for a pen and then see something else I need to do as I’m looking.
• Scrap paper – My mind is a little crazy. When I am praying or trying to concentrate on any one thing totally unrelated thoughts pop into my brain, like “buy dog food” or “tell so and so such and such”. Much of this stuff I do need to remember but do not need to do immediately, so I scribble it on scrap paper. Once it’s written on the scrap paper I can forget about it temporarily and rest assured that I will remember to do it later. This frees my brain up to concentrate on what I am doing.
• Bible(s) – I have gotten used to my favorite version of the Bible, so I get a couple different versions to mix it up. This technique often results in me seeing verses from a new perspective.
• 2 Notebooks – I have found that God never talks about exactly what I want to hear when I want to hear it. He always adds more. So I have one notebook I use for the To Do (or stop doing, or do later) List for the ministry and one for everything else He wants to say. Why don’t I use my computer instead of handwriting everything? It is too easy to “just take a minute to check e-mails”. Plus, writing by hand slows me down and causes me to focus.
That’s it – the rest is just me and God.
I started my day in song, worshiping. Then I read the chapters from my read through the Bible in a year program (and the ones from the previous day that I had neglected to read). After that I grabbed my notebook and wrote: “God give me a quiet mind, a peaceful heart, and ears to hear whatever You want to say to me clearly today.” Then, it was a free for all. I wrote, read and sang; other times I just sat peacefully. I did whatever I felt was best in the moment. At the end of the day I felt a specific sense of being done.
Some people would say I wasted a whole day. I think not. I gained a sense of security in Gods plan for the ministry of Christian Band Help. God corrected me in the area of trying to learn about and do everything all at once. I also have clarity for my next steps and more defined long term goals. Closeness with God and greater knowledge of His plans for me is well worth the time and effort to take a Spiritual Sabbatical Day now and then. Try it with your Christian band – you never know what God will do!
A few years ago I went to a seminar on How to Hear God’s voice with Mark Virkler, it was absolutely incredible! This is the book we used:
I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how to hear from God better than we ever have before.
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