The summer can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for pastors and church leadership. The numbers dip and spiritual fervor seems to cool down. In the past, I’ve really tried to force growth and consistency throughout the summer months. But no matter what I’ve done, there is a summer slump at church.
Instead of using guilt to drive church attendance, maybe I ought to teach another important message, namely, that rest and recovering are good and godly.
There is a time to evangelize and grow the church. That usually seems to happen in September when people are going back to school, work, and routines. There is also a time for dedicating your life to spiritual growth. That usually happens during the season of Lent and Easter when we give extra attention to the life of Jesus and our response to his grace.
But the summer is a time for rest.
We just got back from our family vacation. It was great. We played, swam, sat by the beach, and enjoyed a beer on the golf course.
Everybody, even Christians, are resting from their normal routines in the summer. In fact, I would say that resting is just as “spiritual” as evangelizing. What do I mean by that?
1. Rest requires trust in the gospel.
Our 24/7-digital-always-on-call culture has no use for rest. Even when we go on vacation we feel the pressure to check email and put out fires at work. Our secular culture believes that everything depends on our effort and activity.
I felt this on our vacation. Although I turned off my phone and kept it in the car, like Frodo’s ring, I could sense my phone’s presence when I got close to my car. I felt the urge to turn it back on a just check to see if I had voicemails or emails. I was going through withdrawals as I fought the need to feel important, believing the lie that everything that matters relies on my busyness.
But the gospel says everything really depends on Jesus’ work on the cross and his empty tomb. The same God who saved us is ultimately in control of our lives.
In fact, God commanded his Old Testament people to stop everything once a week on the Sabbath. He wanted them to know that because God is always working, we don’t have to be.
[shareable]Because God is always at work, we don’t have to be.[/shareable]
When we intentionally stop and rest, we are trusting that the God of all grace has everything in control.
2. Rest allows for recovery.
When God created with world, he created it to have certain rhythms. There are certain seasons for planting and harvesting. There is a time to be awake during the day and a time of darkness to sleep. There is also a time to work and a time for rest and recovery.
We are not God. He is not limited by time or energy or ability. But we are.
When we take a vacation or a day off, we are acknowledging those God-given limits, so that our bodies, minds, and spirits can recuperate and heal.
3. Rest resets priorities.
We might pride ourselves in working without breaks or vacations. But that is a silly badge of honor. When we rest we have time to contemplate what really matters. We can think about the eternal purposes of our life. We can give some special priority to our family and friends, remembering that love is better than personal achievements.
We also can plan out the year to come. We might take time to set goals that line up with our deepest desires and values.
Enjoy your vacations
So enjoy this summer. Take a break from the normal routines. Get away with the family and enjoy the outdoors.
When you are in town, worship at your church. When you are out of town, find a church to worship at or have your own family worship.
Spend the summer resting in the Lord and his grace. Then, when August and September hit, let’s get back to work, serving our Savior with all our might so that everyone in our community might receive and enjoy the love and acceptance of our gracious God.