22027 17th Ave SE
Bothell, WA 98021
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Posted on September 14th, 2016 by Pastor Steve Walker
For the last three months I’ve been on a sabbatical, free from all of my pastoral duties. My heart overflows with thankfulness to God and to the elders, staff, and people of Canyon Hills for their support and encouragement. I know that the staff, in particular, bore a heavier burden because one of the team was missing. Thank you for this kindness.
Before I left, I wrote to the elders about my goals for the sabbatical. Tammi and I then shared them with the whole church through an email. We’ve stayed in touch with a handful of our elders and their wives and are grateful for their love and care during this leave of absence. I want to take a moment to give you a snapshot of my time away and somehow convey the magnitude and blessing of this gift.
My desire for the summer has been to slow down and linger longer in the word and prayer and I have been able to do that with greater consistency. I identified 15 new passages of Scripture that I want to memorize over the next several years and I started doing this immediately. I also chose to camp out in the book of Nehemiah to see what I could learn from the man who is considered one of the greatest models of courageous leadership. I took four weeks to slowly read through the book, taking many pages of notes for my life and ministry. I then outlined the whole book to see if the Lord might move me to preach through it on Sundays. After an additional three weeks of outlining, I began to feel a tremendous desire to do just that. I fell in love with Nehemiah and I plan to take our church on a journey beginning in a couple of weeks.
My prayer times were greatly affected by this time as well. Paul links praying and inner peace together in Philippians 4:4-7 and I was able to rediscover what that actually feels like. My hope is that this will be the norm and not the exception in my devotional life.
One of the things we missed this summer was worshipping with you on Sunday mornings. Oh how we missed you. Tammi and I visited many churches and I had to work hard at not critiquing every preacher and worship service. Every Sunday was a soul check for me as to whether I could sit under the ministry of the word and worship without being in charge. And believe me, that’s not easy for us pastors to do. But God always spoke a word of encouragement and on several Sundays he really pried into our hearts. I have distilled all of the sermons we heard into 2-3 pages of single spaced nuggets and notes. I will be blogging some of these with you on our website over the coming months.
I love to read, so I chose seven books. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend every one of them. I won’t take up space to review them here but trust if your interest is peaked, you will look them up and review them for yourself. Here are the books I read:The Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore; The Wright Brothers by David McCullough; Preaching With Confidence: A Theological Essay on the Power of the Pulpit by James Daane; Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley; A Call To Prayer by J.C. Ryle;
Preaching the Cross by Dever, Duncan, Mohler, and Mahaney; The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African American Pastors by Thabiti M. Anyabwile.
Under this goal I wanted to spend extra time just “chillin” (as my kids would say). So we planned a few family getaways as well as a couple of fishing trips for me to enjoy with some good friends. I learned how to fly-fish and I also learned a tremendous amount of patience as I did much more fishing than I did catching this summer. One of the highlights was visiting Washington DC for the first time. And again, space doesn’t allow me to go into detail, but I will always remember this trip with my family, and came away with a deeper appreciation for the country we get to live in. I was able to clearly see God’s hand in the founding principles and beginnings of our country. I’ll spare you the vacation pictures and commentary. And you’re welcome for that! But if you haven’t taken the time to tour our nation’s capital, you must put this on your bucket list!
Under this heading I wanted to spend much needed time with my aging and ailing parents. Both of them (divorced) live in California. One in southern and one in northern. I was able to travel and get better connected to their needs and complicated medical conditions. I hope to be able to walk closer with them as they get closer to the completion of their time here on earth.
My extra time with Tammi and our adult children was precious to all of us. I’m committed to having better control over my calendar and to allow for more regular visits with them.
I was also able to make progress on some physical healing due to a car accident twenty months ago, as well as getting a better handle on the sleep challenges I’ve had for many years. I’m not all better yet, but I’m getting good treatment and I’m beginning to feel the positive effects of being able to focus on these issues.
I’ve also come to realize that I need to make a few small adjustments to the pace and pattern of my ministry, but overall, there are no major changes in my desire and willingness to humbly serve as the senior pastor of our church. Our mission of Making More and Better Disciples of Jesus remains biblical and unchanging. I have several new ideas of how I hope we can continue to accomplish these callings, but they are more practical than they are philosophical or directional. So you won’t be hearing any major new revelations or signs from heaven due to my time away.
What I do sense God calling me to focus on is the intensity and urgency of my calling. I have been convicted on two truths this summer. First, Jesus needs to be enough. His work of salvation and my relationship with him need to be everything to me. I want my satisfaction and fulfillment and contentment to come first and foremost from loving and pleasing him above all other responsibilities and commitments. Second, our world desperately needs Jesus. Our lost friends and family and co-workers and neighbors are prisoners to Satan’s deception that life without God is best. I want all of us to recapture our sense of urgency for sharing our lives and our eternally satisfying and saving gospel with the lost people God brings into our lives. There is more to share here, but I will take the coming months to lead us to this convicting and compelling Christian life priority.
I want you to know that Tammi and I are deeply grateful for our time away. We can assure you that we counted every minute we had together this summer as life giving and restful and we are ready to jump back in 100%.
Five weeks after I return we will celebrate CHCC’s 21st birthday. Many of you have been with us for the majority of this time. Others of you are much newer. I want you to know that more than ever I love the word of God and I want it to be the foundation that upholds our lives and church with a clarity and depth that authenticates the faith we confidently claim.
I believe that Canyon Hills is spiritually grounded and geographically positioned to be a tool in God’s hands for a fresh revival of repentance and salvation in our community and beyond. God is as sovereign and gracious as ever. And I find myself humbled, and perhaps more useable now. My deep desire and firm commitment is to stay at this post as long as I can be fruitful for his glory. It is good to be back.
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