We are designating the year 2021 as a Year of Sabbath-Rest for our church. What does this mean? Perhaps the best way of clarifying what the year of Sabbath-Rest is, is to say what it is not.
It is not that we are ceasing from all church ministry activities, programmes and going on a hibernation mode for the year 2021 — that is just not possible as we still have essential ministries and church services to run. Rather, the thrust of our Year of Sabbath-Rest is not to do nothing but to cease from constant activity and ministry so that we can find time to rest, reflect and renew ourselves. What is Sabbath-Rest, and why need we rest? Here are two reasons.
To Cease From Constant Activity And Ministry
In the Hebrew scriptures, the Sabbath was originally meant by God as a gift for His people. When the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, there was no Sabbath rest for them. They were building Pharaoh’s cities, and the job needed to be done. So they had to work longer and longer hours, seven days a week, and we can imagine that many of them died under the harsh treatment of their taskmasters as well as from sheer physical exhaustion because they were not given proper or adequate rest.
God has never intended for human beings to work like that. We need rest and sleep, to recalibrate and refresh. We need time to form community and share love. We need time to worship the one who made us. And so, the Israelites were not just given permission to take a day off — they were commanded to do so by God when God gave them the Ten Commandments. One day in seven when they were to refrain from economic activity, so that they could rest and worship God.
In applying this Sabbath-Rest principle to our church context, it will not be possible for us to cease from all activities in our church for an entire year, as I have mentioned that we have essential ministry and work that need to carry on. However, what we are encouraging for our Sabbath-Rest 2021 is to cease from constant labour and activities. Here are two broad guidelines that our church leadership have worked out to achieve our goal of ceasing from constant labour and activities, namely:
- All essential and regular ministry and activities of the church will still be carried out as usual.
- Meanwhile, there will be no new initiatives, major events, or churchwide programmes for the year 2021.
To Rest, Reflect And Renew
With the above guidelines in place, we believe we should be able to reduce the number of activities and events in our church so that it will allow all of us to rest from constant ministry and labour. The rest that we are envisaging is not, doing nothing. Rather, the purpose of rest is to allow us as a church to spend the year 2021 to reflect on two fronts.
First, on a personal level, we wish to encourage all Wesleyans to reflect on their personal life, namely:
- How are you doing in your relationship with God?
- How are you doing in your family relationships?
- Are there any areas that God wants you to change or work on in terms of the above two questions?
- What is God speaking to you about your future in terms of your work as well as your involvement in His kingdom work?
Second, at the church level, we wish to encourage Wesleyans to reflect on the ministry that they are involved in, particularly for the various church ministry committees. The purpose is to spend time reflecting, reviewing, and evaluating our church ministries, with the following questions:
- Are there areas in our ministry that God is calling us to change or review?
- Are there new areas in our ministry that God is calling us to explore or initiate?
- In the light of post-Covid-19, is God directing us to new ways of doing ministry?
We invite all Wesleyans to join us and enter this year of Sabbath-Rest with us and prayerfully, as we rest and reflect, we will be renewed for worship and service in preparation for Directions 2025.
Praise be to God!
As we enter into this year of Sabbath-Rest, we hope that every Wesleyan may be able to practise and establish a weekly rhythm of Sabbath-Rest for our lives, so that all of us may find true rest and trust in God from whom all blessings flow.
There remains, then, a Sabbath-Rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:9-11, emphasis added)
You can experience this rhythm of Sabbath-Rest through the themes of rest, reflect and renew.
Although we have presented these three themes in a linear manner, we recognise that there will be some overlap in practice. Simply put, we don’t just rest, we pause to do reflection. And as we reflect, we prayerfully make decisions to change our lives and ministries that will lead us to be renewed and refreshed.
What YOSR Taskforce chairperson has to say on Rest, Reflect and Renew.
For many of us, it has been an exhausting year, both physically and mentally, as we adapted to new work practices and experienced Zoom fatigue from back-to-back online meetings, with little or no mental breaks. Rest has been an elusive luxury many of us could ill afford. Talk about a blistering pace of life! Surely God did not mean for us to be sucked into living our lives at the speed of the Internet! Click on this link for the invitation to Rest in the Lord.
INTRODUCTION TO REST
Stop – To Cease from Constant Labour
- Stop Using Busyness as a Badge of Honour
- Stopping to Demonstrate that God is in Control
- Stopping to Acknowledge God’s Redemption in Our Lives
Rest in God
- Trusting in God’s Abundance
- Embracing God’s Rhythm
SPIRITUAL PRACTICES FOR SABBATH-REST
Discipline of Meditating on Scripture
- Moving from Information to Transformation
- Meditation on Scripture — R.O.A.D. Journalling
- Praying with Scripture
Discipline of Prayer
- Praying on Our Own — P.R.A.Y.
- Guided Prayers
- Praying with Others
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is Sabbath-Rest?
A1. The word ‘Sabbath’ comes from the Hebrew word which means ‘to cease or stop working’. And the purpose for stopping work is to rest in God or to enter into God’s rest.
In Chapter 4 of Hebrews, the writer reiterates that the promise of entering God’s rest still stands (verse 1). After spending the first three chapters telling us that Jesus is greater than the angels as well as Moses, and that Jesus is acknowledged as our Apostle and High Priest, he warns us not to harden our hearts against God, as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief, God denied that generation access to the promised land, saying, “They shall not enter into My rest” (Hebrews 3:11)
In the same way, the writer warns us not to make the same mistake by rejecting God’s Sabbath-rest in Jesus Christ. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:9-11, NIV, emphasis added).
(Source: How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest? GotQuestions.org).
Q2. What is The Year of Sabbath-Rest?
A2. Wesley Methodist Church has designated 2021 as The Year of Sabbath-Rest (YOSR). The rest that we are envisaging is not stopping church activities altogether and doing nothing. Rather it is to cease from constant work, activity and ministry, so as to allow us – both individually and together as a church -- to spend the year 2021 to rest, reflect and to be renewed.
Q3. Why do we need a Year of Sabbath-Rest?
A3. By the end of December 2020, we would have completed our four-year Directions 2020, with the following themes: Growing in Christ (2017), Building Community (2018) and Impacting the World (2019-20). As a church, we have been working for years without practising the Sabbath-Rest.
Therefore at the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC) Planning Retreat in 2017, Pastor-in-charge Rev Stanley Chua mooted the idea of a Sabbath-Rest. After waiting on the Lord in prayer, our church leadership was eventually led by the Holy Spirit and unanimously decided that once we complete our Directions 2020, we will designate the year 2021 as a year of Sabbath-Rest before we launch any other plans or directions beyond 2021.
For more details, please read Rev Stanley Chua’s Message in the December 2020 issue of Wesley TIDINGS.
Q4. Why can’t we stop church activities altogether for a year?
A4. In applying the Sabbath-Rest principle to our Church context, it will not be possible for us to cease from all activities in our Church for an entire year as we have essential ministry and work that need to carry on. For example, worship services have to continue. Also, we still need to share the Gospel News with those who have not heard of Jesus, as well as to care for the poor and the needy in our community. What we are encouraging for our Sabbath-Rest 2021 is to cease from constant labour and activity.
Q5. How do we cease from constant labour and activity?
A5. Here are two broad guidelines:
a. There will be no new initiatives, major events, or Church-wide programs for the year 2021.
b. But all essential and regular ministry and activities of the Church will still be carried out as usual.
Q6. What is this Year of Sabbath-Rest (YOSR) Journal?
A6. One main feature for 2021 is the Year of Sabbath-Rest Journal, the first of which will be mailed to members’ homes. Each household will receive two copies. You may request for additional copies, but subject to stock availability.
Three volumes of the YOSR Journal will be produced as follow:
a. Volume 1: Rest (January to April 2021)
b. Volume 2: Reflect (May to August 2021)
c. Volume 3: Renew (September to December 2021)
You will receive Volume 1 by the end of December 2020. Volumes 2 and 3 will be distributed about two weeks before the start of the respective four-month periods.
Q7. What is the purpose of the YOSR Journal?
A7. The Journal will contain valuable information on Sabbath-Rest. In Volume 1, for example, you will read a foreword on Sabbath-Rest by Pastor-in-charge Rev Stanley Chua; the 3 themes of Sabbath-Rest – Rest, Reflect and Renew; an Introduction to Rest; and the first two of five spiritual disciplines – Meditating on Scripture and Prayer.
In addition, there will also be many blank pages for your daily reflection and journaling (more details below).
Volumes 2 and 3 will likewise contain information on Reflect and Renew, respectively, and the remaining three spiritual disciplines.
Q8. What are these 3Rs -- Rest, Reflect and Renew?
A8. They are the three themes of The Year of Sabbath-Rest. We will focus on ‘Rest’ from January to April 2021; ‘Reflect’ from May to August 2021, and ‘Renew’ from September to December 2021. Although the three themes are presented in a linear manner, in practice there will be overlaps. Simply put, we don’t just rest, but we also pause to do reflection. And as we reflect, we prayerfully make decisions to change our lives and ministries that will lead us to be renewed and refreshed.
Q9. Why do we need rest?
A9. We need rest for two reasons. First, we need time to worship the one who made us. In the Old Testament, we read that the Israelites were not just given permission to take a day off, they were commanded to do so by God when God gave them the Ten Commandments. One day in seven, they were to refrain from economic activity so that they could rest and worship God.
Second, we need Rest so that we may spend time to Reflect on our lives and ministry, and recalibrate so that we may be renewed and strengthened for worship and service.
For more details on Rest, please read Pages 9 to 14 of the YOSR Journal, Volume 1.
Q10. How do we find the time to rest
A10. With the guidelines listed in A5 in place, we believe we should be able to reduce the number of activities and events in our Church which will allow all of us to rest from constant labour and ministry.
We may also want to take stock of our individual lifestyles with a view to slowing down the pace or cutting down on the time spent on unproductive activities, or those which we may be addicted to.
Q11. As an individual, what do I reflect on?
A11. On a personal level, we wish to encourage all Wesleyans to reflect on their personal life namely:
- How are you doing in your relationship with God?
- How are you doing in your family relationships?
- Are there any areas that God wants you to change or work on in terms of the above two questions?
- What is God speaking to you about your future in terms of your work as well as your involvement in his kingdom work?
Q12. What about my involvement in Ministry work?
A12. We wish to encourage Wesleyans to reflect on their ministry that they are involved in, particularly for the various committees in Church ministry. The purpose is to spend time reflecting, reviewing, and evaluating our Church ministries with the following questions:
1. Are there areas in our ministry that God is calling us to change or review?
2. Are there new areas in our ministry that God is calling us to explore or initiate?
3. In the light of post-COVID-19, is God directing us to new ways of doing ministry?
Q13. What will we be renewed for?
A13. Prayerfully, as we rest and reflect, we will be renewed for worship & service to our Lord.
Q14. Will there be teachings on Sabbath-Rest through the pulpit?
A14. Yes, from the pulpit, our pastors will guide all Wesleyans as we enter this year of Sabbath-Rest with sermons that will teach us specifically what this Sabbath-Rest would mean for us.
We will also explore and teach five Spiritual Disciplines to enable all Wesleyans to use these spiritual disciplines to enter into our Sabbath-Rest to worship and reflect before the Lord.
Q15. Will there be Sermon series and Study of a particular Book in the Bible?
A15. Yes, in the second half of 2021, the pastors will be preaching through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes to reflect on our life, work, ministry, and our relationship with God.
Q16. What are the five Spiritual Disciplines that will be introduced?
A16. The five Spiritual Disciplines are:
- The Discipline of Meditation on Scripture;
- The Discipline of Prayer;
- The Discipline of Worship;
- The Discipline of Silence & Solitude; and
- The Discipline of Examen,
Q17. What is Meditation on Scripture?
A17. There are many kinds of Christian meditation, but above all it is listening to God through the scriptures, ruminating on the Word, a deep conversation of hearing and reading. In meditation we read not just for information; we probe, ponder and explore so that the words of scripture become for us the Word of God in our lives.
As Methodists, we believe that the holy scriptures sufficiently contain all things necessary for salvation. Confident of the authority and power of Scripture as God’s means to reveal, confirm and enlarge true wisdom, John Wesley emphasised that scriptures must be read with a regular rhythm and personal intent to place God’s Word at the centre of our lives.
More details on Meditation on Scripture may be found on Pages 15 to 20 of the YOSR Journal, Volume 1.
Q18. How may I start Meditating on Scripture?
A18. A good start may be to follow our Bible Reading Drive 2021, if you have not already done so. BRD is now in its 6th year, with a new one-year reading plan from 1 January 2021. For 2021, we will only read a total of 29 Books, and not the whole Bible.
Our church leaders have been writing daily BRD reflections which are posted every morning on the Telegram messaging app. Check it out and read the BRD reflections every day. Then start doing your own daily reading, reflection and journaling. That’s what the YOSR Journal is for.
Q19. Where can I find the BRD Reading Plan for 2021.
A19. It will be made available on the WMC Website, Mobile App and the YOSR Journal. You may download the BRD Reading Plan at: https://wesleymc.org/brd2021
Q20. Will there be a BRD Calendar like in previous years?
A20. No, the YOSR Journal will replace the BRD Calendar. A Journal will allow us to provide more information as well as space for personal reflection and journaling.
Q21. How may I do my daily reflection?
A21. Many of the church members have been using the “Read-Observe-Apply-Do” (R.O.A.D.) method in their daily reflections based on the BRD Reading Plan. Details of R.O.A.D can be found on Pages 18 and 19 of the YOSR Journal, Volume 1. Try to follow the R.O.A.D to Read, Observe, Apply, as well as Do what God has revealed to you through the daily Bible passages. Write down your thoughts and reflections in the Journal. Start spiritual journaling.
Q22. What is the Discipline of Prayer?
A22. Prayer is simply the act of lifting up our thoughts, words and affections to God.
The discipline of prayer can tutor us to carve out the precious and much-needed time to grow in our friendship with God. Prayer nurtures our relationship with God – Prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God.
Source: Wesley, J. (n.d.). Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: Discourse Six. Wesley Center Online.
More details on the Discipline of Prayer can be found on Page 20 to 25 of the YOSR Journal, Volume 1.
Q23. What is the Discipline of Worship?
A23. Worship, whether corporate or individual, is the practice of regularly seeking to bring the complete focus of our being on God. It is the discipline of returning to the true centre of our individual and corporate existence as God’s people. The pressures of life and the assaults of the fallen world constantly blur our focus and tend to shift us away from our centre in God. Worship is the means by which we recover our focus and return to our centre. The quality and consistency of our worship will determine how well we are able to live Christ-centred lives in the world."
Source: Mulholland, M. Robert, Invitation to a Journey (Transforming Resources), p135, InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Q24. What is the Discipline of Silence & Solitude?
A24. To enter into solitude and silence is to take the spiritual life seriously. It is to take seriously our need to quiet the noise of our lives, to cease the constant striving of human effort, to pull away from our absorption in human relationships for a time in order to give God our undivided attention.
Source: Barton, Ruth Haley, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, P34, InterVarsity Press.
Q25. How may I practise Silence & Solitude?
A25. We can practise the discipline of silence and solitude in our daily lives by setting aside short periods of time to be quiet and listen to God. For an extended practice of the silence and solitude, you may wish to set aside at least one day in the year to go for a silent retreat where you will be guided to spend time listening to God.
Q26. What is the Discipline of Examen?
A26. The Examen is also known as the discipline of examination where one examines our life before God. Generally, the discipline of examen entails a structured and regular review of our daily life.
Q27. What is the goal of doing these five Spiritual Disciplines?
A27. One of the goals in the practice of the spiritual disciplines is to establish a holy rhythm in our lives where we rest, reflect and be refreshed or renewed in the Lord.
Q28. As an individual, how may I observe Sabbath-Rest?
A28. Each of us should intentionally set aside a day in our normal week as our designated day of Sabbath-Rest. It could be a Sunday or any other day in the week when we do not have to officially work. On this day, let us commit to the Lord that we will:
- Cease from regular work as much as possible – i.e. avoid attending to work emails, texts or calls.
- Cease from being enslaved to our smartphone, online shopping, online gaming, fears and anxiety.
- Find ways to rest and be refreshed, e.g. Go for meditative walks, enjoying God’s creation and presence or take part in a class that lets us express our creativity (art, photography, making cards, gifts)
- Plan a family outing or have a meal with good friends or extended family.
Q29. How may church ministries and committees observe Sabbath-Rest?
A29. We encourage our church ministries to reflect and review whether what we have been doing is still relevant now. With the entire population prevented from travelling abroad, the prohibition of large-group gatherings and many working from home, we have experienced record attendances for online small group meetings, prayer services and other ministry webinars. Almost overnight, the entire church has learnt how to use Zoom and tune-in to online church services.
As one wise church leader told me, instead of getting people to church, we now bring the church into the homes of entire families. While these changes pose new problems, the question we need to ask is how should we pivot as a church to take advantage of these changes? God may be presenting us with new, and perhaps better ways of carrying out his kingdom work. The call is for us to be still and listen to what God wants to tell us.
Q30. Will there be changes at the church level?
A30. As mentioned in A5, there will be no new initiatives, major events, or Church-wide programs for the year 2021. This will give our leaders, staff and volunteers the much-needed rest.
Also, Sabbath Moments will be incorporated during our worship services to help all Wesleyans spend short moments of quiet and reflection.