by Mark Buchanan
Written to the American churchgoer, Buchanan’s message is even more urgent for frontline cross-cultural workers laboring under the “tyranny of the urgent” and the “reality of insufficient resources.”
Thomas Nelson, P.O. Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214, 2006, 240 pages, $17.99.
—Reviewed by Steve Hoke, vice president for people development, Church Resource Ministries (CRM), Anaheim, California.
When five people I respect recommended this book, I purchased it and started reading. When our eight-member Staff Development and Care Team raved about the book, I knew I had a priority resource the entire missionary movement needed. Pastor-writer Mark Buchanan’s delightful and challenging thesis is straightforward: “Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental and spiritual rest, but also the rest of God—the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness” (p.3). Written to the American churchgoer, Buchanan’s message is even more urgent for frontline cross-cultural workers laboring under the “tyranny of the urgent” and the “reality of insufficient resources.” He confesses a well-kept secret:
for all my busyness, I was increasingly slothful….I was squandering time, not redeeming it….The inmost places suffered most….I was doing lasting damage….the pace and scale of my striving were paying diminishing returns. My drivenness was doing no one any favors. (p.2)
From this common ground with many of us, Buchanan shares how he “learned to keep Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.” He recognizes that most of us grew up legalistic about Sabbath, a day on which we couldn’t do things that we really wanted to do. Instead, he seeks to convince us that “Sabbath, in the long run, is as essential to your well-being as food and water, and as good as a wood fire on a cold day.”
Chapter one, “Work: One Thing Before You Stop,” is followed by thirteen chapters that invite the reader to stop the legalism, stop to remove the taskmasters, stop to think anew, stop to find what’s missing, stop to see God’s bigness, stop to number our days, stop to find a center, stop to become whole, stop just to waste time, stop to taste the kingdom, stop to hear God, stop to pick up the pieces and stop to glimpse forever.
At the end of each chapter, Buchanan suggests practices he calls “Sabbath Liturgy”—scripted gestures by which we honor God’s transcendent reality, giving concrete expression to our deepest convictions, choreographic notes that invite us to move with God in ways we are unaccustomed.
A longer sabbatical may be one of these ways. Since experiencing a transformative six-month sabbatical myself, I have evangelistically encouraged hundreds of missionaries to take a sabbatical. Typically, they laugh politely. Buchanan’s words in chapter ten, “Restore: Stopping to Become Whole,” helped me understand, perhaps, why many missionaries dismiss the concept of taking extended time away to spend with God:
I don’t think it’s possible to benefit from a sabbatical if you’ve never learned to keep Sabbath. Sabbatical is Sabbath writ large. If we haven’t been faithful in the small things, why do we expect to be entrusted with the greater ones?…. Sabbatical is just doing daily, for several months of days, what you’ve already learned to do weekly, for many years of weeks. (p. 147)
This book will change your mind about Sabbath.
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