Eastern Star Church has made a momentous, heartfelt decision for spiritual renewal as important as any decision ever made in the life of the church. As part of an expression of our gratitude for 31 years of service at Eastern Star Church, we are presenting the gift of a sabbatical to Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr., and Lady Sharon A. Johnson.
A pastoral sabbatical is an extended period of time when a pastor pulls away from the day-to-day practices of ministry to focus on their spiritual development and return with renewed energy for ministry. The sabbatical will start in June 2021, and we are in the planning stages to ensure that biblical principles, prayer, thought and careful planning makes this decision a blessing to everyone involved.
The plan also calls for the entire church, including staff, to take a time of sabbath. Our plan will allow the pastor and congregation to be blessed by spiritual renewal and motivate us to move forward to the next years of ministry that God has laid before us.
A pastoral sabbatical is a major decision and we rejoice that God has given us the ability to bless our pastor, church and congregation. You will receive more updates as we move along. We ask your prayers and support as God reveals the full plan to us.
Q: What is a sabbatical?
A: A pastoral sabbatical is an extended period of time when a pastor pulls away from the day-to-day practices of ministry to focus on their spiritual development before returning to the congregation with renewed energy for ministry.
Q: When is Pastor Johnson’s sabbatical?
A: Pastor Johnson will take his time of refreshing for six months, starting June 2021. He will return in December 2021.
Q: Is a sabbatical biblical?
A: There are numerous examples, including in Genesis 2:2 (NASB): “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
Q: What are the plans for making this happen?
A: Our church council has been planning a sabbatical for Pastor Johnson for several years. They hired a consultant, Dr. Frank A. Thomas of Christian Theological Seminary, to help with the process.
Q: Why do pastors get sabbaticals?
A: Unlike many of us, a pastor is on call 24/7. It’s an emotionally demanding position, with pastors giving to their congregation by helping them cope with conflicts, illnesses and deaths as well as celebrate births and marriages. At the same time, they’re committed to preaching and teaching the word of God. We can’t think of anyone who has worked as hard as Pastor Johnson during the past 31 years. He is committed to serving church members at three locations and meeting the needs of the disadvantaged. He deserves a time of extended rest.
Q: What is my role as a member?
A: Pray and remain faithful with your time, talent and treasures. The church will continue to operate at a very high level in preaching, teaching and ministry during the sabbatical period.
Frank A. Thomas, PHD, currently serves as the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana and the director of the very first PhD program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. Thomas is a prolific author with his latest book released in 2018, How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon, and is presently working on its sequel, How to Survive a Dangerous Sermon to be released in 2020. Thomas served with distinction as the senior pastor for two remarkable congregations: New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Illinois, and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church of Memphis, Tennessee, for eighteen years and thirteen years, respectively. Thomas and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas, each earned their Certified Professional Coaching Certificate (CPC) from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and are passionate about coaching pastors, pastor’s spouses, and in the area of preaching.
As part of Eastern Star Church’s Sunday services on Oct. 13, 2019, church leaders presented Senior Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson, Sr., and Lady Sharon A. Johnson with what they described as a priceless gift — a six-month sabbatical.
In presenting the gift in recognition of Pastor Johnson’s 31 years of ministry at Eastern Star Church, Elders Lukau Matuka and James Poore said the sabbatical is the gift of time.
Church members at Eastern Star Church’s Fishers and Cooper Road campuses gave Pastor Johnson and Lady Sharon an enthusiastic ovation in recognition of their endless service.
The sabbatical is planned for June 2021, with Pastor Johnson returning in December 2021.
“When looking at the years of service that Pastor Johnson has given to this ministry, you recognize that it’s not just the years of service that have made an impact,” Poore said. “It’s the level of intensity that he has put into that service.”
Poore, who has been attending Eastern Star Church for nearly 30 years, pointed out how Pastor Johnson regularly led multiple services each Sunday, many times up to five in one day, without taking an extended break. And that doesn’t include the time he has devoted to leading Wednesday services, taking mission trips and pouring himself into members and those throughout Arlington Woods, Indianapolis and around the globe.
“There was a little time he took off during his recovery for prostate cancer and maybe a month here and there,” Poore said. “But even then he was still involved in a lot of things going on in the church.”
Elder Lukau Matuka said that a sabbatical for Pastor Johnson is long overdue. “For the last 31 years, our pastor has poured into us faithfully with a lot of passion. He has given to us 100 percent,” she said. “That’s a lot of hours of time and energy spent pouring into others. I’m shocked that after 31 years, he’s just now taking a sabbatical.”
Matuka said she’s ecstatic that the council reached the decision to provide Pastor Johnson and Lady Johnson a time of rest.
“We’ve been talking about a sabbatical for him for years,” Matuka said. “Rest is the best gift we can give ourselves. And it’s the most priceless gift someone can give you.”
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