Resting on the seventh day is not only a commandment but also a crucial practice for mental, emotional, and physical health. Learn how setting aside time for spiritual renewal and rejuvenation can benefit both you and your ministry.
Since its inception in 1946, Chick-fil-A has drawn attention for its countercultural Sabbath practice. As you may have noticed while driving past a Chick-fil-A billboard – or heard in Kanye West’s popular song – this world-renowned chicken shop is, in fact, “closed on Sunday.”
The decision to close its doors on Sundays has done more for Chick-fil-A than provide good marketing content. Because of this company’s commitment to the Sunday rest day, employees get time off, and the public feels more attached to the brand. Counterintuitively, Chick-fil-A sales have grown exponentially despite being open 14% fewer days than its competitors.
Don’t worry! I’m not suggesting that churches begin to close their doors on Sundays. What I am suggesting is that the principle of Sabbath rest is so powerful and so fundamental to human flourishing that even restaurants can benefit from it! And if that’s the case, there’s something profound that a church management team can learn from Chick-fil-A: it’s time to start taking Sabbath rest more seriously!
Before I start to sound like I’m lecturing all of my church ministry friends out there, I need to confess that I’m mostly preaching to myself. In a fast-paced, productivity-focused world in which nearly everyone has a side hustle (or 2 or 3), taking a full day off feels nearly impossible. Particularly in ministry, it can feel like the to-do list never ends. It’s all too easy for us to justify our decision to push a little harder or work a little longer, telling ourselves we are doing it for the sake of the kingdom!
The longer I’m in ministry, however, the more deeply I’m convinced that prioritizing the Sabbath day is essential for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. We are finite human beings who cannot give from an empty well, and the Sabbath is our opportunity to drink of God’s rest and goodness.
I likely don’t need to tell you that “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is one of the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:8). But what does the Bible really mean by this command? Jesus healed on the Sabbath, so I can surely respond to that email on my day off – right?
To answer this question without a trivial “yes” or “no,” we have to go back to the very beginning. In Genesis 2:3, at the climax of the creation story, “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” The word “holy” is an interesting choice here. While God called most of creation “good” or “very good,” he chose this word for the Sabbath day to indicate that it is set apart and sanctified.
Additionally, while every other day of the creation narrative includes the phrase, “And there was evening, and there was morning,” the seventh day does not include these words. Some scholars suggest that this is intentional, leaving the reader to understand that Sabbath rest never stops.
Later, when God establishes His covenant with His people and gives them the 10 Commandments, the Sabbath becomes one of the signs of this covenant. As a holy day, the rhythm of the Sabbath helps us remember both our origin (created by God) and our ultimate destination (fully in God’s presence).
This means that practicing the Sabbath is not some arbitrary rule that God assigned to keep us on the straight and narrow. He gave it to us so we would remember the rest He freely offers. He gave it to us as a gift!
This also means that Sabbath rest is not earned, nor is it justified by its usefulness. It doesn’t matter how hard we have worked throughout the week – or haven’t. We still get to participate in the Sabbath because it is a gift we receive from God Himself. On the Sabbath, we intentionally turn toward God and away from the demands of the world, trusting that His provision is enough.
Importantly, Jesus did permit work on the Sabbath. He healed on the Sabbath (John 5:1-18). He also let his disciples pick heads of grain (Mark 2:23). Why? Because the Sabbath wasn’t given to us to place an unnecessary burden on us. It was made for our benefit (Mark 2:27–28).
And more importantly, Jesus tells us that He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). In communicating this, Jesus was redefining the true definition of the Sabbath. Jesus is God’s rest. Because of His work, we are not bound by sin or the Law. Because of His love, our souls can find true satisfaction. When we spend time with Jesus (and trust Him with our time), we enter into the true Sabbath rest that God intended.
So what does all of this mean for us as modern Christians? Do we need to take a whole day to rest, or is it okay to take half a day off here and there? Which activities should we avoid on the Sabbath, and what are we allowed to do? While these questions are understandable, the whole of the biblical narrative seems to suggest that we need not apply specific rules when it comes to the Sabbath practice.
As believers in Jesus, we are not bound by the laws of Israel. Still, we should adhere to the wisdom behind these laws. There is wisdom in taking a full day to worship God, enjoy community, and rest. There is wisdom in stopping work in order to fully disconnect from a busy world. Importantly, however, the Sabbath does not just need to be defined by the absence of something, such as work. It is meant to be a full day - full of rest, full of renewal, and full of relaxing into God's goodness.
When the world is constantly telling us to work harder, it takes a lot of discipline to carve out a full day to slow down. Because of this, I recommend taking a full day off for the Sabbath. While some people try to split their Sabbath day up rather than taking a full day off, I am not convinced that this allows for optimal rest.
Even so, I maintain that we do not need to be dogmatic about our practice. Rather than becoming regimented about how we spend our Sabbath and what we should or shouldn’t do, we should proactively lean into rest and enjoy what God has given us!
Given all of this, how can you encourage your church staff to participate in the Sabbath? First, you have to ensure that the culture of your church staff supports a healthy rhythm of rest. This starts with church leadership. If the leaders in your church don’t actively practice and talk about taking a Sabbath, it is unlikely that your staff will value it. Next, you need to teach about the importance of the Sabbath. Help your church staff understand that Sabbath is not just a day off but a purposeful pause in which we trust God with our time and orient our lives toward Him.
And finally, create space for your church staff to rest. Ensure that they have the time and resources they need to observe Sabbath rhythms. This may involve adjusting workloads, setting boundaries around work hours, or implementing a church management software system to offload administrative tasks. Creating space for rest – just like Chick-fil-A has done – will help your church staff avoid burnout and stay physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy.
To learn more about how Breeze’s church management system can help your team balance their workload, click here!
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