Jon DeBell's Blog

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Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


"The cemeteries are filled with indispensable men."
--Charles de Gaulle

It's here! At long last, after much preparation, it's time to begin my sabbatical. Several weeks ago I came across the above quote. Pretty timely isn't it? It has helped me in preparing to let go of my responsibilities at EBC for a season. Now the trick is to do it.

It is a rather sobering thought that we not only can be replaced, but one day, sooner or later, we will all be replaced. As indispensable as we might want to believe we are--we aren't. And that "all" includes pastors.

In a very real way this summer will be a test of how well I've been doing my job. Do we have the sufficient breadth(number) and depth(commitment) of leadership to see that the work of God's church moves forward? Has our membership bought in to the spiritual truth that we are all members of one body and each part has a role to fulfill for the body to remain healthy and vibrant?

Here is a big "Thank you!" in advance to everyone who will be pinch hitting for me in many areas of ministry this summer. Whether you realize it or not, even if you haven't volunteered to specificly take on one of my roles this summer, you will be helping me and blessing our church simply by carrying out your normal responsibilities to the best of your ability.

So what will I be up to the next few weeks? This week is one of transition for me, making sure the loose ends are tied up and shifting gears into a rest, relax, study and reflect mode. I'll be spending some time with family in Alabama and perhaps a few days at the beach before heading off to Israel on June 27th.

Remember: there is only One who is truly indispensable!

Shalom(can you tell I'm getting ready for Israel?),
Pastor Jon

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm Going On Sabbatical!

I'm thrilled that my church, East Baptist in Charlotte, N.C., has granted me a sabbatical for the summer of 2006. The sabbatical will begin on May 29th and I will return to my duties as pastor on August 27th.

What is a sabbatical?
A sabbatical has been defined as: "A period of time (usually 3 months) when professional church workers set aside their normal responsibilities with their congregation for the purpose of renewal and sustained excellence in ministry."

The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning suggests, "Ministry Sabbatical is not an extended vacation. In ministry sabbatical the physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual wellbeing of the worker is addressed. The Biblical example of Jesus' own frequent withdrawal to a quiet place to meditate, pray and be renewed is a model."

Another denomination identifies three key components that should be included in Ministry Sabbaticals:

  1. A time for personal relaxation.
  2. A time to pursue personal interests.
  3. A time of renewal around things that will directly benefit the congregation.

What will I be doing? I'm excited about the variety of things I have planned for the summer. I'll be taking two major trips:

  1. From June 27th to July 16th I'll be in Israel to participate in an archaeological dig at Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee. Dig days will start at 4:30 a.m. so that we can be on the site and digging by sunup and finished in time for a late lunch and before the heat of the afternoon makes work unbearable. During the evenings there will be time for lectures on archaeology, the Holy Land and the Bible. In addition to the dig we will take the time to visit many other Biblical sites. I can't wait!
  2. On July 27th Erin, Evan, Laura and I will be traveling to Ecuador. We will get to visit with Erin's husband and his family, as well as do some sightseeing. I'll be returning to Charlotte on August 10th.

While I am in the States I hope to be involved in a wide variety of activities:

  1. I'll be visiting other churches to enjoy worshipping with them--but also to observe and learn how other congregations "do church".
  2. I hope to get away to the beach or mountains for a week or two to relax, read, pray, meditate, evaluate and plan.
  3. I'm looking into attending a conference in Ridgecrest and a leadership conference here in Charlotte.
  4. There will be at least one trip to Alabama to see family.

As you can see, my summer will be quite busy and will pass all too quickly. Pray that I will be able to prioritize what I need to accomplish and plan time to truly rest.

What will happen at East Baptist?
My responsibilities will be provided for in a number of ways:

  1. Speakers have been enlisted to fill the pulpit for the twelve Sundays that I am gone. They will provide fresh perspectives from God's word and challenge our congregation. We will do a good job of publicizing who will be speaking prior to each service. (I trust our congregation will be committed to worshipping our Savior on His day no matter who the speaker is!)
  2. Special Sunday night events will be planned for two-three Sundays each month.
  3. The Wednesday night services will be covered by church members who have been enlisted to speak.
  4. Thomas McCuddy will be working additional hours to help with administrative and visitation needs.
  5. John Oakes will be in charge of our regular visitation program. Our deacons and Sunday School leaders will be asked to step up and meet ministry needs within the congregation.
  6. John and Michael Stevens have volunteered to lead the McAlpine Terrace Bible Study.
  7. Earl Lowry, Deacon Chairman, and John Oakes, Personnel Chairman, will meet with the staff on a regular basis to assist them with their work and to address any needs that may arise.

I like Earl's comment that this summer can be an opportunity for our church to experience revival as members grow, using their spiritual gifts to minister to the needs of our congregation, and as individuals open their hearts and minds to the challenge different speakers will present from the Lord. I also appreciate April Dickson's comment this past Sunday from 40 Days of Community, "We can discover this summer that we truly are better together!"

How will all this be financed? There are several different aspects related to the financing of the sabbatical:

  1. The church will continue to pay my salary and benefits as usual through the summer. Thank you!
  2. The extra expenses the church will incur during my absence will be paid for by a special gift that has been designated for that purpose. No additional expenses will be placed on the church.
  3. I will be responsible for paying for the trips I am taking during the summer. The Personnel Committee is sponsoring a love offering for me to help with those costs. Thank you again!

How can people keep up/get up with me this summer? I will be using this blog site to write on a regular basis about my activities this summer. I'll be excited to share what I am experiencing and learning. I will need your prayers! And I will read my emails.

This first blog has been a long one--but I hope that this will help members of EBC and friends have a clear picture of what will be happening in my life and in our church this summer. Words cannot express how grateful I am to the Personnel Committee and Deacons for spearheading this effort. I am also appreciative to our staff for how willing they have been to take on additional responsibilities and provide for the needs of the congregation. And I have to thank Alan Thomas for setting up this site for me. I will be putting it to good use in the days ahead!

With Much Love and Appreciation,

Pastor Jon