When I planted Solid Rock Church ten years ago in Claremont, California, the last thing on my mind was rest. Like many church planters, I was young, energetic, and driven. I was 23 years old and unmarried. I had heard a lot of stories about what it would take to start a local church, what it would take to maintain momentum, and how challenging it would be to plant a church that would also work to plant other churches.
Ten years later, I’m married with two kids. Our church, Solid Rock Church, has worked to plant and support other churches. In addition, I have the joy of working with the Send Network to oversee the care that we offer to nearly 100 church planters throughout Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and Orange County. I can honestly say that rest and its relation to my family and ministry has been a challenge and a growth area.
Rest from Ministry
As church planters, we can find it easy to bury ourselves in productivity and work. I have noticed in myself and others the justification that a strong work ethic builds the church plant. I don’t believe that. Instead, I would argue that the rhythm of rest gives you a chance to not only wait on God’s word but to also appreciate God’s work.
As I consider my family and my work ethic, I’m forced to reconcile if my spouse and children know me as a man who rests. I wonder if they know me as a man who is able to pause and reflect, even as God did in Genesis 2. I wonder if they know me as a man who is able to enjoy hobbies and leisure. I wonder if they see me modeling a strong belief more rooted in God’s word versus my own work ethic. Because underneath my own inability to rest is probably a disbelief in God’s ability to work.
Some of us actually believe that if we don’t do it, no one will. Consider how small that makes God. Could it be possible that God is working through our work and also through our rest? Could it be possible that God is sovereign and sufficient? Could it be possible that God longs for our formation through rest so much more than our productivity through work? Yes.
Rest in God’s Character
In Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, the author makes a special effort to remind the persecuted Jewish Christians of their ancestors’ disbelief. The author recounts how the first generation that escaped Egyptian slavery still couldn’t wrap their heads around the sufficiency of Yahweh and the work that He had accomplished and would accomplish. They find themselves with hardened hearts, and they walk with an inability to believe that God would deliver them and give them rest.
In particular, the author reminds them that part of the gospel narrative is that the lovingkindness of God has made it possible for them to experience rest. Of course, this rest is eschatological and historical, but the author intentionally reminds the audience that today they can experience rest.
Rest in God Shaping Your Character
God shapes and forms us in our rest. That means when I don’t rest, I miss out on important moments of being shaped and formed into the likeness of Jesus. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Jesus understood that the cultural, religious, and systemic demands of the world would constantly be wooing us away from rest, preventing us from seeing His great work.
When I am able to sit down with my children, go on walks with my family, go to the aquarium or an amusement park, or even just sleep in, I entrust provision and sufficiency back to God. In those moments, I find myself significantly more present with my family because the burden of doing is gone. In those moments, I recognize that God’s work—His death on the cross—is so much greater than anything I ever have done or anything I ever will do.
If I were asked what I wanted to give my children ten years ago, I probably would have said my work ethic. But a decade later, I think I would be more inclined to say that I hope and pray that my children and my spouse long for my rest ethic. My hope would be not that they are lazy, but that they are able to intentionally reflect on the good work of God and participate in leisurely spaces where they can grow in love for one another.
I’m still working on this. But as I allow the Holy Spirit to reshape me and form me in moments of rest, I remember the value of my own discipleship and the place of my leadership.
So what could a rhythm of rest look like for you? For me, this has looked like beginning to watercolor by myself and with my daughter, cook for my family and neighbors, and fiercely protect days off – even if I have a lot of work to do. What are hobbies or leisurely activities you can do with your own family? How can you begin to be present and have boundaries with your family? What does it look like to teach your family the ethic of rest, and maybe even a belief in God’s sufficiency? Could it be that you can actually build your church by resting? I think so.