As I reflect on my calling to ministry and who I am as a child of God, I am thankful for how God continues to use me for His Kingdom. Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be equipped and activated for service. I have served in the local church consistently for 25+ years. Over this time period, I got married, graduated from seminary, had three children, moved to three different churches, and led this great congregation through massive changes, including Hurricane Harvey, a pandemic, and most recently, disaffiliation. Throughout all these moments and more, I have never taken a sabbatical. The time has come for me to take a sabbatical. Most sabbaticals last from six to twelve weeks, but I will be taking a shorter but much-needed one for various reasons. I still have energy and vigor for local ministry, especially at our great church.

What is a sabbatical? A sabbatical (from the Hebrew: שַׁבָּת Šabat (i.e., Sabbath); in Latin sabbaticus; Greek: sabbatikos σαββατικός) is a rest or break from work. I will be concentrating on rest, renewal, and refueling for the ministry. Sabbaticals are commonly awarded every seven years in the Methodist church, but I have not had an opportunity to take one in my career.

The sabbatical will be a new experience for me. I have plans to incorporate more spiritual habits into my life, but I admit that this time will be somewhat of an experiment. Why? I have noticed over the past 25+ years how God uses my Enneagram number to accomplish His purposes. My main number is a three, the achiever. I love achieving things for God and His kingdom. During my ministry, I have achieved much in the name of Jesus Christ, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit working in me to accomplish these goals, tasks, and visions.

I have faithfully served John Wesley Church for eight years. I have experienced the loss of several staff members, led through changes in the entire pastoral staff, and, as mentioned before, navigated through a hurricane, ice storm, pandemic, and the disaffiliation from our birthing congregation. My soul and spirit are not tired and weary, but it is important not to wait until our souls or spirits are dry and worn out. The time is right for a sabbatical. Our church has competent leadership under my authority, and John Wesley Church will continue to thrive as I step away for my sabbatical.

In spiritual terms, I believe I will continue to achieve in the years to come. God has wired me to get things done for His Kingdom. However, the time has come for me to simply take time to "be." I need an extended period to merely "be" a man, husband, father, pastor, friend, and child of God. I require space to just "be." The next part of my faith journey and ministry requires me to recapture the understanding of simply "being." "My 3 needs to be'" is my motto for this sabbatical. It will be a time to rest, renew, and reinvest in my personal spiritual being. I will open myself up to God's renewal process so that I come back to full-time ministry re-energized.

My plan is to be off from July 1, 2023, until August 13, 2023. I will preach Patriotic Sunday on June 25, attend the Stars and Stripes Celebration, and then join the Sr. Trip for the 2024 Class.  

Pastors Eric and Trish, along with the Core Leadership Team, will be in charge of the church during this time. I will not be attending church functions, funerals, weddings, or worship services during this period. Sabbatical planners encourage almost a complete disconnect from the church body to achieve rest, renewal, and reinvestment. I have planned activities for my time off, including working on projects around the house, maintaining an exercise and eating regimen, going on a family vacation, spending quality time with my wife, reading several books and devotionals, engaging in moments of prayer, journaling, playing golf, and participating in corporate worship at places other than John Wesley Church.

Here is a list of the books I will be reading during my time away:  
  • Devo: The Achiever by Bennett
  • The Art of Clear Thinking by Hasard Lee
  • The Enneagram by Rohr & Ebert
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by Comer
  • Live No Lies by Comer
  • Canoeing the Mountains by Bolsinger
During a sabbatical it is important to make space for and adopt healthy disciplines in your life.  I will be working on creating a sustainable and healthy morning routine (drink water, workout, journal, pray, dress, read) and at the same time infusing the day with moments of deep reflection and authentic presence in the moments.

If you c
all, text or email, I will return all communications after August 13. You can always reach my Ministry Coordinator, Arlene Rollins or another pastor at 281-444-2112.  

I want to say thank you to our congregation for gifting me with a sabbatical. 
Your love and support for me over the past 8 years continues to bless my life and ministry.  I will be in prayer for you during my time away.  May God bless you and all your endeavors.  

In Christ,

Dr. Marty Dunbar