• Paul Coulter

Life After Lockdown - 2. Anyone for Refreshment?

Please don’t misread my title. No one is offering refreshments here. And I’m not talking about the sensitive subject of post-service beverage offerings. I’m not a late entry into the refreshments war. I refer, instead, to the need for refreshment of your whole being – body, soul and spirit.

We need it right now more than ever, but where to find it? That’s the question.

For many, the answer is straightforward. You need a break.

It’s striking how many church leaders have had to cancel holidays during lockdown. Many can’t even envisage what a break would look like if they can’t go away from home. Now that the restrictions are easing, though, the options are opening up. Either a short break away or even a ‘staycation’ are becoming possibilities, but they won’t happen if you don’t plan them. If you have children at home, you owe them a break.

The simplest level of refreshment is about paying attention to your body and your heart. We must avoid the trap of thinking that such attentiveness is unspiritual. We need a healthy, integrated understanding of ourselves. When you’re physically and emotionally weary, you’ll struggle in your relationship with the Lord. That’s not a denial of the Spirit and His sustaining power, but an acknowledgement of the biblical truths that it’s your body that the Spirit indwells and your spiritual act of worship is to offer your body as a living sacrifice to God. Food, sleep and exercise are all good gifts from your Father. Savour them.

For many of you, though, there is another aspect to refreshment. You need regular breaks.

A while ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, ‘Coming out of COVID: Celebrating Sabbath’. It was a reflection on my own experience of having had the virus (I’m perfectly fine now, by the way). In that post, I discussed the Bible’s teaching regarding the Sabbath. Recently, I was preaching from Leviticus and was struck again by the importance of rhythms of rest: a Sabbath day each week; a Sabbath year one in seven; and a Sabbath of Sabbaths once a lifetime in the Jubilee. God gives rest to his people and to the land, because He has woven it into creation and calls us to it through redemption. We need Sabbath rest because we are created to need it, and because we need the God who gives it to us as a good gift.

Yet church leaders often tell me that they haven’t had a proper Sabbath day in months. I’m not shocked, because I’ve been there myself. This is not about inducing guilt, but you know where I’m going, don’t you?

Please start taking proper Sabbaths. Every week. No excuses.

I’m not dragging you towards legalism here, but instead inviting you into liberation. Close down the laptop. Silence the email notifications. Lock up the study. Free up the diary. Just do it.

Lastly, may I ask you to consider another means of finding refreshment? Living Leadership was founded specifically to help leaders find rest and refreshment in God. Our flagship (and longest running) annual event is our Pastoral Refreshment Conferences. The couples and individuals who come to these conferences in England testify to how beneficial they are. We’re hoping they can run as normal in February 2021 and you can register your interest if you want to be kept up to date. We’re also exploring possibilities of Refreshment Days in other regions of the UK and Ireland.

At times, you may need more structured input to refresh your vision for God, your love for Christ and your dependence on the Spirit. The word ‘Refresh’ describes our support ministries, including Refresh Groups, in which a mentor guides leaders together in mutual support over a period of time, and Refresh One-to-One, when one of our staff or associates meets with a leader or couple for mentoring or pastoral care.

We would love to serve you in these ways.

Please let us know if we can.

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