I want to share with you an experiment that is not my own, though I sorely need its discipline. It comes to me from Chuck Orwiler, a seasoned pastor in Denver. As a careful observer of the contemporary scene, Chuck quickly realized the exhausting pace of many of his people (as I write these words Newsweek has just come out with a cover story on exhaustion). Ahead of Newsweek by several months, Chuck last fall encouraged his congregation to make 1995 a “Sabbath Year”. The idea is simply to take God’s rhythms of work and rest seriously. As a wise shepherd Chuck is leading the way by doing this himself with an overall plan that is daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. By making his plan public, he has the added advantage of the loving, nurturing accountability of his congregation. Here is Chuck’s personal Sabbath rhythm:


1. Time for prayer and meditation

2. Exercise

3. Be in bed by 9:30 p.m.


1. Sunday worship

2. One day utterly void of office responsibilities

3. Quality time with Vicki (his wife)


1. One morning or evening of extended prayer time

2. Two days of “serious goofing off”

3. Two days of making something with my hands


1. A retreat experience that nurtures my soul

A couple of observations on Chuck’s personal schedule.  First, notice that his decision to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. means that many quite fine church (and other) activities will continue on without his presence. He does this because he values his mornings and to delay sleep at night, of necessity, hinders the effectiveness of the morning hours. One advantage of this practice is that it helps committee meetings move forward with dispatch. Also, under this plan a person will not be wasting precious time watching late night news programs. (We can get double the information in half the time by briefly scanning a newspaper!)

Second, I can well imagine that Chuck’s goal of two days of “serious goofing off” each month will be his most difficult challenge. Why is this? Because it strikes at our everlasting itch to get ahead. This then is an especially important discipline for we need to learn that many things are far more important and valuable than getting ahead … like developing a personal history with God … like enjoying family and friends … like rest and good conversation and helping each other watch the sun go down.

I asked Chuck if he has experienced any difficulty with legalism in his personal regimen. He chuckled, “I’m learning the virtue of legalism!” I knew what he meant. So many of us have been so devoid of structure for so long that we genuinely need a framework to give our lives stability.

Chuck and his congregation are only two months into their experiment, but he tells me, “It has been the two most productive months of ministry in my life!” This is important to hear for just about the only paradigm for ministry Christian leaders have today is the old adage, “It is better to burn out than rust out”. As a result, many pastors simply do not survive the demands of ministry. I believe this rhythm of work and rest is a healthier model.

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