Seminary Stewardship Alliance Vice-President and liaison representing Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Mark Liederbach, recently preached on Psalm 46, “Be Still,” at Southeastern’s Chapel
Dr. Mark Liederbach has served as the Professor of Theology, Ethics, and Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for 15 years. He is currently the Vice President and Dean of Students, a Senior Fellow for the L.Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, as well as a research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is the author of True North: Christ, the Gospel and Creation Care (with Seth Bible) and The Convergent Church: Missional Worship in an Emerging Culture (With Alvin Reid). He co-edited Defending the Faith, Defending the Culture (with Bruce Little)
Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at M.I.T., has interviewed hundreds of people of all ages about their daily fixations on social media and new technologies like smartphones and tablets. In a recent interview with Scientific American, Turkle is worried that there’s at least one hidden cost to our addiction to technology—the loss of solitude. Turkle says:
I do some of my fieldwork at stop signs, at checkout lines at supermarkets. Give people even a second, and they’re doing something with their phone. Every bit of research says people’s capacity to be alone is disappearing. What can happen is that you lose that moment to have a daydream, or to cast an eye inward. Instead, you look to the outside.
Solitude is the precondition of having a conversation with yourself (and God!! – LT) This capacity to be with yourself and discover yourself (and God!-!LT) Is the bedrock of development. But now, from the youngest age—even two, or three, or four—children are given technology that removes solitude by giving them something externally distracting. That makes it harder, ironically, to form true relationships. I have so many examples of children who will be talking with their parents, something will come up, and the parent will go online to search, and the kids will say “Daddy, stop Googling. I just want to talk to you.”
Interview by Mark Fischetti, “The Networked Primate,” Scientific American, September 2014;
Cliff Wall, pastor of the Puett United Methodist Church, sent us a wonderful sermon on Sabbath keeping. He graciously answered our questions regarding his family’s sabbath-lifestyle.
My wife, Christi, and I have 4 children and one on the way. I have pastored a rural United Methodist church in Dallas, North Carolina since 2012. I have been in pastoral ministry in the United Methodist Church since 2008. I received an MDiv from Duke Divinity School in 2012. I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love!
Have you always been a Sabbath keeper? If not, when did you start keeping the Sabbath?
I grew up in a church-going family. My father was born in 1928; my mother in 1935. They were both raised in a culture that very much honored a Sunday Sabbath. My parents owned a small country store and never opened on Sundays. So during my childhood Sundays were certainly not an ordinary day.
Early on it was a quiet day of rest and a time to visit with friends and family after Sunday morning worship at the country United Methodist church just a mile up the road from where we lived. For children in the community it also was very much a “Sunday Fun Day” when we got together to play. Once I got a little older though, I recall a gradual shift. Larger grocery stores began to open in nearby small towns along with fast food restaurants. Pretty soon going out to eat and grocery shopping after church became a weekly routine for my family. After that there was still mid afternoon naps for my folks and play time for me and other kids in the neighborhood. When I got more into sports it was also a day when some friends and I would watch some football or basketball on TV. Sunday evenings, however, often found me scrambling to complete homework assignments before going back to school on Monday. Sundays were definitely different, but I can’t really say that we were consciously observing Sabbath. As I got more involved in sports, especially basketball, as a teenager, Sunday just became another day for me to work on my game and just hang out with friends.
In college I got involved with a non-denominational Christian group that taught Sabbath freedom, for them meaning that the law, including the Sabbath law, came to an end in Christ and we no longer needed to observe it. This way of thinking definitely led me to believe that it really didn’t matter what Christians did on any particular day. While I was working on a Master’s degree I worked in a retail store part-time. I worked Sundays quite regularly and never really thought much about it. Sunday was still a day for attending a morning worship service, but nothing more than that.
As a student pastor at Duke Divinity School the demands of school and church made it seem almost impossible to find time off, but I really still didn’t think about it in terms of observing Sabbath at first. At Conference and Divinity School seminars the importance of Sabbath was discussed, but usually in terms of self-care (i.e. just taking a day off). I did get into the habit of taking Mondays off, at least most of the day, really just out of sheer exhaustion. At that time, however, I did begin to sense in my spirit that there was more to Sabbath than that.
Intuitively, my family and I no longer went out to eat after church, as is the custom of many a good Methodist. Sundays became more of a day to be at home rather than out and about running errands. Still, in the back of my mind though I sort of still viewed the freedom we have in Christ as a license to ignore Sabbath if we wanted, although I knew it really wasn’t wise to do so. It was the teaching of Dr. Sleeth that really helped me to think about Sabbath keeping in a greater light.
I had already been seeing more and more in Scripture that the freedom we have in Christ is a freedom to do what we ought rather than what we want; and that through faith in Christ we are empowered by the Spirit to live into the spirit and intent of the law (Rom 8:4; Gal 5:22-23). I was already sensing how this pertained to Sabbath, but Dr. and Mrs. Sleeth helped to bring it more into focus. I guess the way I would put it now is that although in Christ we have freedom from a particular form of Sabbath; we also, in Him, have a freedom for the heart and intent of Sabbath. Since I first made the Sabbath covenant with the Sleeths last year, I have learned better what I need to do to truly find refreshment and rest in the Lord once a week.
For me I became aware that, while I was technically ceasing and desisting from official church responsibilities, I was still wearying myself at times with my own personal studies and reading. I have also learned that if I am truly to find rest that I need to resist the endless trail of links to online articles and cyber debates over controversial issues on my day of rest. I also realized that I need to avoid the news, especially of the political variety. In short, I have a better idea how to set a day apart to truly fellowship with the Lord and find rest and refreshment in my God. Not that I always succeed in avoiding the unnecessary distractions, but I am in a much better position this year than last for sure. For that, I am thankful.
What made you decide to share the Sabbath message with your congregation?
It occurred to me that the gradual Sabbath neglect among Christians that began many years ago may have in fact been a gateway to more and more neglect of many of the other laws of God in the Church and the wider culture.
Recently some folks were upset to learn that some stores would be open on Thanksgiving Day. Some of the complaints were that it would keep some people from being able to spend time with family. I understand because I worked in retail for years and even though I technically had Thanksgiving Day off I usually had to work the day before and most certainly the day after. Consequently, at a time when my wife and I lived a couple of hours away from my folks, it was quite burdensome to get home just for one day. At least we could count on having Thanksgiving Day off, but for many in retail today they can’t even count on that. Many, including me, lament that; but it dawned on me that this was just the end of a slippery slope that began with the gradual encroachment and erosion of what used to be a special day every week in our culture, Sunday.
At any rate, it seems to me that the same gateway that may have led to greater neglect of God’s laws in other regards may also be the same gateway back to more faithfulness overall. So, that’s one reason why I wanted to talk about Sabbath with my congregation. I think there is a keen sense among many people that we did in fact lose a religious and cultural treasure when Sunday became just “one more day for progress,” as the second half of one line goes in the “Rascal Flats” song, “I Miss Mayberry.” The full line of that song is, “Sunday was a day of rest, now it’s one more day of progress.” I would like to help others begin to receive the gift that Sabbath is, but not only just for themselves.
It’s clear from the fourth commandment that Sabbath wasn’t just meant to be a personal gift; it was meant to be a gift to the whole society. It was a day that everyone – even the animals – could count on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone, at least for the most part, could count on the same day every week to be able attend to the relationships that matter most, our relationship with the Lord and our family and friends? I remember years that it seemed that my wife and I only saw each other in passing – never having a consistent day each week that we could count on to be able to spend quality time together. Although it’s hard to see how we could reclaim what we have lost at this point in our 24/7 world, reminding Christians to remember the Sabbath and to begin to seek to keep it more and more holy seems like a good start.
In what ways have you seen them engage with this message?
It’s obvious that many are aware of the treasure that was lost, at least the older people in our congregation. All of this is quite foreign to many of the young people, however. Nevertheless, some have told me that they have taken very practical steps toward being more observant of Sabbath in general – not washing dishes on Sunday, for example. Others are beginning to rethink their Sunday routines as well. Overall I think the message has resonated fairly well so far.
What does Sabbath look like for you and your family?
My wife and I have four children and one on the way. Over the last year we have become more intentional about Sabbath. In addition to worship, prayer, and Bible study, we have also tried to make it a day for gathering and fellowshipping with friends. We eat together at home and avoid shopping as well. We have encouraged our kids to get their homework done before Sunday, and to simply rest and enjoy the day.
As a pastor, I have for a long time taken Monday as my personal Sabbath. Albeit more recently I have begun to think of Monday as a personal extension of our family Sunday Sabbath. Since my wife doesn’t work outside the home, Monday is a time when we can spend more time together since three of our four children are in school. Of course our one year old keeps company with us on Mondays too.
Personally, on Mondays I try to focus on things that draw me closer to the Lord and help me to find refreshment, such as Scripture reading and prayer, a walk in the sunshine, rest in my recliner, and enjoyable movies, some TV shows, or an occasional novel. A good dessert on Sunday and/or Monday helps too! Usually, Mondays require of me much more rest than anything else. Praise God that I’m finding more and more of it in recent days.
Take 30 minutes to watch Pastor Cliff Wall’s Sabbath Sermon:
24 + 6 Ways to Think, Talk, Write, and Preach about the Sabbath
Matthew Sleeth, MD
When I wrote 24/6, I believed that reclaiming Sabbath practices was foundational to our faith. Since the book was published, our ministry, Blessed Earth, has led retreats for more than a thousand clergy and preached Sabbath sermons to tens of thousands. Through these retreats, forums, workshops, and sermons, I’ve come to a new realization: the Sabbath journey is richer than I ever imagined. Each time I think I’ve explored every bend in the road, God reveals an even more beautiful vista.
Below are thirty ways for thinking, talking, writing, and preaching about Sabbath living. As you read this list, I pray that the Holy Spirit will nudge you to explore one or more of these topics, not simply as an intellectual exercise but as a tool for enriching your faith.
The Ten Commandments. The Commandments are grouped into two sections: one through three are about our relationship with God and five through ten are about our relationships with people. Commandment four, the Sabbath commandment, serves as a bridge. The Sabbath connects God and people, heaven and earth. The Sabbath also helps us keep all of the other commandments through worship (commandments one through three), family meals (commandment five), seeking shalom (commandments six and nine), renewing our marriage (commandment seven), and resting from commerce (commandment ten)
Healing. The miracles that Jesus performs on the Sabbath all center on healing. Christ does not walk on water or turn water into wine on the Lord’s Day; rather, he heals the withered hand, helps the blind see, and allows the lame to walk. These miracles point to the intent behind Sabbath: to heal us—body, mind, and spirit. Man is not made to save the Sabbath; the Sabbath is made to save man.
Holiness. The first time “holy” appears in the Bible is in Genesis, when God describes the Sabbath day. All of creation is good, humans are very good, but the Sabbath is holy. Note that the King James Version translates the Hebrew kadosh as “sanctified”. God rests. God is Holy. Therefore, rest is holy. At the very core of sanctification is humanity’s covenant to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Lost practices. 2 Chronicles 30 is a blueprint for what to do when a holiday (or holy day) has been lost. The Hebrew people have forgotten the Passover for many years, and now they wish to restore its observance. But how? The Bible gives us a plan for recapturing a lost practice: 1.) recognize the need, 2.) repent to God, 3.) recruit like-minded people, 4.) spread the word, and 5.) celebrate the holiday, even if imperfectly. In 2 Chronicles, the Hebrew people do Passover “wrong”: the priests are unprepared, the date is wrong, and the length of the celebration is too long, yet God blesses their celebration—just as God will bless your Sabbath journey.
Health. When we never know when our next day Stop Day is coming, our body responds by sending out stress hormones. These hormones are commonly known as the fight or flight response. If you ever have a severe allergic reaction, a shot of adrenaline can save your life. A few hours later, however, you would feel utterly exhausted. When we are under stress long term, our bodies produce another stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol production contributes to a host of medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety. The bottom line: constant stress doesn’t just make us tired and grumpy, it makes us ill. We were made in the image of God, who rested on the seventh day and instructed us to do likewise.
Gratitude. If you look for a miracle every day, you will see one—a colorful sunset, a new bloom in your garden, a child at rest in her father’s arms. Make a note of these miracles in a gratitude journal, or snap a picture with your phone. Then, on your Sabbath, review the miracles. This simple practice will change your attitude throughout the week, allowing you to see God’s hand everywhere. We don’t need more wonders in this world, just a greater sense of wonderment.
Parenting. In today’s 24/7 world, Sabbath-keeping is countercultural; it doesn’t just happen. If you wish to make Sabbath keeping a family priority, you will need to prepare for it. In return, the Sabbath will do some of the heavy lifting of parenting for you. It will help your children learn the hard but important lessons of restraint. It will encourage them to set priorities and establish boundaries. But first, you have to model the Sabbath yourself. One of the best gifts you will ever give your children is a healthy rhythm of work and rest.
Marriage. Ask a divorced couple why they separated, and most will say that they simply drifted apart. When we get overscheduled, we lose track of the relationships that really matter, including our relationship with the person we covenanted to forsake all others for until death do us part. Sabbath is a time set aside to renew marriages and commit the opposite of adultery. Put the children down for a nap. Encourage a family quiet time. Sabbath opens up the quality and quantity time to reconnect with our spouse and remember the joys of marriage.
Social justice. The Sabbath commandment is explicitly inclusive. It says we must extend the Sabbath to the least in our society, including the stranger in our midst, the minimum wage worker, the illegal alien, and the animals in our care. Each of us should examine how our actions as a spouse, employer, colleague, parent, or church leader might be preventing others from accepting the Sabbath invitation.
Creation care. Sabbath ethics provide the foundation for many of the ordinances about caring for the land. For example, the injunction to allow the fields to lie fallow every seventh year allows the land a chance to renew while providing food from perennial crops for the poor and for God’s creatures. Not harvesting to the edge of the fields preserves wildlife corridors. Most importantly, Sabbath reinforces the lesson of restraint. By coming to rest one day in seven, we are able to fill the emptiness inside by being with God rather than by consuming more and more things.
History. Sabbath is a gift that God gave to civilization through the Hebrew people. No society has come up with resting one day in seven unless they came in contact with the Jews. Christians have traditionally celebrated the Sabbath on the Lord’s Day, a term that first appears in the Bible in Revelation 1:10 and is implied or mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:2, John 20: 19-26, and 1 Corinthians 11:20. It is talked about by Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Pliny, Tertullian, and Dionysus of Corinth. Our world today would be a very different place if we had never had the Sabbath—a day for prayer and reflection, a day for families, a day for holy rest.
Politics. During the French Revolution, people wanted to get rid of God and King. Getting rid of the King was easy: they chopped off his head. Getting rid of God was harder, so they instituted a ten-day week with no Sabbath. During the Russian Revolution, Lenin decreed a five-day week with no Sabbath. For many years, Blue Laws in America ensured that workers had one day a week to be with their families and worship God; today, however, it is possible to consume, 24/7. Although no one is coercing us to give up our day of holy rest, we enslave ourselves through the temptations of pride, workaholism, and busyness.
Business. Two of the best witnesses for Sabbath keeping come not from the Church but from the business community. David Green, the CEO of Hobby Lobby, risked one hundred million dollars per year in revenues when he decided to close his stores on Sundays. Chick-fil-A, despite being closed on Sundays, is one of the most profitable fast food chains in the country. Isaiah 58:13-14 shares a Sabbath promise that both the business community and consumers would be wise to heed:
“If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so! (The Message)
Generosity. Sabbath and tithing share much in common. When people with financial problems are advised to tithe, it seems counterintuitive. How can giving money away solve our financial woes, especially when it already seems nearly impossible to make ends meet? The same principle holds true for time. When people are overscheduled and overcommitted, the first thing they should do is commit to keeping a Sabbath. Why? Because when we give the first fruits to God, it turns our entire perspective upside down. Everything belongs to God—our time and our money. Sabbath and tithing allow us to operate out of the principle of abundance rather than scarcity. By trusting that God will provide a double portion, we learn the true meaning of “enough”.
Music. Sabbath is a day for joyful singing and music. While we have many hymns that emphasize time with God—such as Take Time to be Holy, Sweet Hour of Prayer, I Need Thee Every Hour, and Amazing Grace—many hymnals do not list “Sabbath” in their topical index. This may seem like an oversight until we understand that the entire hymnal is about the Sabbath. What other day of the week do we regularly get together to sing? What other day of the week do we enjoy live music? If we lose Sunday as the Lord’s Day, we may lose not only our most beloved hymns but also the church where those hymns were once sung.
War. During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, in his executive order dated November 15, 1862, stated that no Union soldier should work, fight, or march on Sunday unless under direct attack. His rationale was that if we lost the Sabbath, it did not matter who won the war; we would all become slaves. In more recent history, The U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor on the Sabbath and Israel was attacked on Yom Kippur, the Sabbath of Sabbaths. Some of our most courageous soldiers were Sabbath keepers. Desmond Doss, a hero of World War II, was the first American conscientious objector to win the Congressional Medal of Honor; although he never fought on the Sabbath, his fellow soldiers and his country honored him for extreme acts of courage. For as Abraham Lincoln so presciently said, “As we keep or break the Sabbath day, we nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope by which man rises.”
John Wesley. Sabbath has been integral to the teachings of many church leaders, including Calvin, Luther, and Wesley. John and Charles Wesley’s mother, Susannah Wesley, wrote a letter dated July 24, 1732, detailing the importance of Sabbath in the faith of all her children. From the very dawn of their conscientiousness, she attempted to establish Sabbath as a foundational rhythm of their lives. In “Almost a Christian”, the second of Wesley’s fifty-two standard sermons, he equates profaning the Sabbath with drunkenness and wife beating. Perhaps Wesley’s most famous thoughts on the Lord’s Day are expressed in A Word to a Sabbath-Breaker.
Evangelism and Church Growth. Ask people how they are doing and one of the most common responses is, “Busy!” People are drowning in a new kind of debt—time debt. We are overcommitted and overscheduled, stressed-out by seemingly endless demands. Fortunately, the Church has an answer to this problem: the Sabbath. One day in seven, lay down your burdens and come to rest. Yet Christians, in large part, are failing to model this life-giving rhythm. The real estate in time that our church has existed on for two millennia is the Sabbath. Only in the last generation have we forgotten to renew the lease. Yet we must first model Sabbath living ourselves if we wish to effectively offer this Good News to the world.
Art and Literature. Traditionally, the prime time for reading was Sunday afternoons. Is it no wonder, then, that in our 24/7 world, literacy is being lost? Who has time to read out loud to a spouse, or to their family? Who has time to read for spiritual enrichment or simple pleasure? Last year, I read the Bible out loud to my wife Nancy. This year, Nancy is reading the canon of C.S. Lewis to me. Sabbath gives us the time and space we need to appreciate not only literature but art, beauty, and the many “excellent things” created throughout history, all for the glory of God.
Sports. It used to be that the Church lost our college students to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Now, we are losing our tweens to travel soccer leagues. Sports have become the Church’s number one competition. We do not so much live in a post–Christian world as a polytheistic world. Instead of Baal, we worship ball. Today, more Americans watch Super Bowl Sunday than attend Easter services.
Satan. We have an enemy who is willing to do anything and use any lie to separate us from God. One of his greatest tools is busyness. The Devil is the only person in the Bible who presents himself to God as perpetually busy—someone who is always going up and down and to and fro. In The Screwtape Letters, S. Lewis tells us that Satan wants to keep noise in our lives so we are unable to hear the quiet voice of God. Remember that the Devil’s tool is trickery. He gives us ninety percent truth and ten percent lie. Being industrious is good. Thinking that we—not God—are the authors of our lives is foolishness. Getting rid of the Sabbath is the Devil’s cheap ticket to enslaving souls.
Time. Time is the great leveler. We all have twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week, and three hundred and sixty-five days per year. How we use that time, however, is up to us. God chose to give humanity free will. We can use our time to inflate our personal story or to increase God’s glory. God, The Ancient of Days, is intensely concerned with time. He instructs us to number our days and reminds us that our Savior comes quickly. The Puritans considered Sabbath breaking a form of sloth, a sign of spiritual laziness to not prioritize time with God.
Character. Someone who keeps the Sabbath and lives to be seventy will spend ten years of their life—a full decade!—involved in holy activity. Take away a decade of anything foundational in someone’s life—a decade of education, a decade of living in a stable family, a decade working in a certain field—and the whole character of one’s life can change. Remove a lifetime of Sabbaths from a nation, and you will be missing a continent of character-building experience. Little wonder, then, that research among our students shows a steady decline in empathy and an increase in me-centered behaviors. Sabbath is a weekly check on hubris, a time to remember Christ’s sacrifice and to rekindle our commitment to serving others.
Community. My wife and I run a nonprofit together. We both have workaholic tendencies. We both love our work. This is a dangerous combination. Yet no matter what deadlines are looming, my wife and I do not work on the Sabbath. When one of us begins to “talk shop,” we gently remind each other to give it a rest. Sabbath is best practiced in community. So find a Sabbath partner. Help each other to create a Sabbath plan: what you’ll need to do to get ready, how you’ll celebrate, and what you’ll avoid on your day of rest. Then check in and encourage each other. Even better, experience Sabbath for a season together as a small group, a church, a college, or a seminary. Your lives will never be the same.
Economics. In a Jubilee Year, all debts were cancelled and all properties were returned to their original owners. The purpose was to prevent generational poverty. Because of our fallen nature, we have a tendency to greed and hoarding. Cain’s first sin wasn’t bashing Able in the head: it was being greedy and giving God less than his first fruits. Sabbatical economics help us fight our inherent propensity to greed. Are these economic principles nonsense, or can we incorporate some aspects of them into our modern society?
Heaven. No one knows exactly what heaven looks like, and yet everyone believes that it will look more like a Sunday morning than a Monday morning. Theologians have long felt that the half hour of silence that occurs in Revelation is the ushering in of the eternal Sabbath. Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us. What can we do to make Sunday look a little more like heaven on earth?
Freedom. Scholars have argued for centuries about how to define rest. Here’s a simple definition: decide what work is for you and don’t do it on your Sabbath. For people engaged in sedentary work during the week, puttering around in the garden on the Sabbath might be restful. For people who do manual labor, holy rest might mean taking a nap. Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, once said that there are only two rules for Sabbath: pray and play. Now in his eighth decade of life, Peterson also believes that Sabbath-keeping is the best thing he ever did for his marriage, his children, and his ministry. My family and I have been keeping the Sabbath for the past dozen years, and all I can say is, “Amen!” Now grown, our kids kept the Sabbath throughout high school, college, medical school, and residency. The Sabbath gave them something almost none of their peers had, even while attending a Christian college: a day off. No homework, no chores, no shopping—just time with family, friends, and God.
Retirement. What does it mean to rest when we are retired? Perhaps we should look at the example of older people in the Bible, including Anna and Simeon, who devoted their lives to the church. Can retired persons give those in the congregations who have no chance to rest—such as single parents, parents of disabled persons, or those caring for people with dementia—a day off? Can the church help to make those connections? What can retired pastors do to encourage working pastors to keep the Sabbath? The first psalm is a good place to seek advice on how to be fruitful for an entire life.
Clergy. Pastors often have their busiest day of the week on Sundays. Most clergy, therefore, need to pick another day to Sabbath—usually Friday or Monday—so they can refill their spiritual well. Without the Sabbath, burnout is almost inevitable. Pastoring quickly can spiral down to the blind leading the blind. Congregations need a pastor who is spending time with God on a regular basis, steeped in the Word, entering the week renewed and refreshed. Clergy should consider writing a letter to their congregation each year, explaining why they keep the Sabbath. Then they should model that behavior, and extend the Sabbath invitation to their congregation.
Jesus.Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. Not only did Jesus do a majority of his healing miracles on the Sabbath, he conducted a great deal of his teaching on that day. In Luke 14, Christ discusses the excuses we have for not sitting down to feast with him. Hebrews 3 and 4 also give us a greater understanding of Christ as the Sabbath. Lay down your heavy burdens and Jesus will give you rest. His yoke—the Sabbath—is easy, and his burden is light!
I pray this list will help you go beyond thinking about 24/6 to living 24/6. We serve a God who created the weekend! Rejoice and be glad!
Matthew Sleeth, MD, a former emergency room physician and chief of the hospital medical staff, resigned from his position to teach, preach, and write about the biblical call to be good stewards of the earth. A highly sought after speaker, Dr. Sleeth has spoken at more than 1,000 churches, campuses, and events, including serving as the monthly guest preacher at The Washington National Cathedral. Recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s most influential evangelical leaders, Dr. Sleeth is the executive director of Blessed Earth, founder of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance, and author of numerous creation care books and articles. For more Sabbath resources, please visit www.sabbathliving.org.
J.L. Miller, Residence Director of the Townhouses and Associate Campus Minister at Houghton College, led about 100 Houghton students through a Sabbath study using the 24/6 curriculum last fall. J.L. holds a Bachelor’s degree in Student Ministries from Geneva College and a Master’s in Youth Ministry from Asbury Theological Seminary. J.L. is passionate about seeing students develop their calling and identity as they prepare to launch from Houghton. J.L. enjoys spending most of his time hanging out with college students, taking walks with his wife, and building Legos with his three kids.
We asked J.L. a few questions about his Sabbath journey and how he shared it with the students at Houghton.
What inspired you to pursue Sabbath and 24/6 last semester?
J.L.: For more than a year, I was part of a number of conversations at Houghton recognizing the lack of balance between work and rest in our community. As part of a plan to address the issue, our chapel theme for the fall semester was work and rest. The decision to use 24/6 came from a desire to help students continue the conversations about Sabbath beyond chapel. I wanted to give students the opportunity to put the ideas from chapel into practice. 24/6 seemed like the perfect resource to motivate practical application. For four weeks we had seven different studies using 24/6 across campus with an involvement of about 100 students.
How did the Sabbath message resonate with those that engaged with it?
J.L.: Students were quick to admit their lives were too busy and shared a sincere desire to establish Sabbath rhythms in their lives. While practicing Sabbath in an academic community can be difficult, the majority of students were interested in trying new ways to make it work.
Did you see any life changes through the study? Do you think it encouraged the campus community to keep Sabbath more frequently?
J.L.: A number of students were encouraged by the study to experiment with different ways to practice Sabbath. Each one who made a serious attempt at practicing Sabbath came back with reports of substantial impact on their lives. Some students made commitments with their friends and roommates to keep Sabbath practices together. Everyone in the study agreed that practicing Sabbath without the support of others seemed like an impossibility. While it is hard to measure changes on a campus community as a whole, I am confident of the positive impact 24/6 has made at Houghton.
What do you hope to do in the spring semester to help students continue to engage with Sabbath-keeping?
J.L.: We have dedicated another chapel speaker, Dr. A.J. Swoboda, to the discussion of Sabbath, reminding students that the topic reaches beyond just one semester. Additionally, each study leader has been encouraged to meet again with their 24/6 group and discuss how people are doing with Sabbath practices. In the long term, I plan to use 24/6 on a semi-annual basis, keeping the importance of Sabbath practices in front of our students regularly. I also have ensured that copies of the 24/6 materials are available for anyone interested in using them.
10:10-11:00 Session 1: Our 24/7 World and Why We Need 24/6
(Play segments 1 and 2 back to back, followed by first set of discussion questions. If the group is small, you can discuss the questions all together. If you have ten or more people, break up into smaller groups of about five-eight for discussion times.)
11:00-11:10 Coffee Break
11:10-noon Session 2: How We Do 24/6 and Your 24/6 Life
(Play segments 3 and 4 back to back, followed by second set of discussion questions)
12:45-1:15 Session 3: Church Leaders and the Sabbath
(Play Eugene Peterson interview in bonus material, followed by third set of discussion questions)
1:15-1:45 Session 4: Writing Your 24/6 Plan
(Have 1 copy of clergy plan for each attendee printed and ready to hand out; encourage people to pray for guidance, fill out in silence, and then when they are ready go through their plan with someone else in the group)
1:45-1:55 Next Steps (www.sabbathliving.org resources and how you might help each other stay accountable)
Many pastors ask for ways to incorporate a “Sabbath culture” in their churches. One example is to teach Sabbath living through church communications such as email and websites. Below are some sample voice or email messages for when you are taking your Sabbath:
Sample “away” messages for clergy:
“Thank you for contacting me. Please know that I look forward to being in touch with you. I am away from the church office, as Monday is my Sabbath. If your matter is of an urgent nature, please contact our Church secretary, Doris Day, at 222-333-4444.”
“This is Pastor Bob, and I am sorry to miss your call. I will be on Sabbath today and will respond to all voicemail tomorrow morning. If this is a matter that needs immediate attention, please contact lay leader George at 222-333-5555. Thank you for calling.”