On August 11, we’re going to have our first annual Summer Sabbath! This is one of the regular rhythms we’d like to establish at River City where we make a conscious effort at the end of each summer, to rest. So, I want to walk you through what we’re planning for that day so you know our thoughts behind this, and what is expected.
First of all, Sabbath rest is something God instituted for the nation of Israel as he delivered them out of slavery in the book of Exodus. He instructed them to honor the Sabbath day — work six days and rest on the seventh, just like He did at Creation. Remember, this was a nation who had just spent 400 years as slaves. They didn’t get a day off for 400 years! God was bringing them into the Promised Land and at the outset of their journey, commanded them to rest. This wasn’t just an opportunity to stop working and sleep in. More importantly, it was a sign to Israel, and the other nations watching this story unfold, that Israel’s God loved them because he loved them, not because of what they could accomplish.
That kind of rest is still offered to all Believers today! We are invited in Hebrews 4 to do whatever we can to enter that kind of rest; rest from drifting into disobedience and thinking it’s all about us. We’re invited to enter the true Rest that is Jesus’ finished work for us. He is the one building the Church, and not even hell itself can stop it! He works through us, to be sure, and as Believers we’re called to link arms with Jesus and pull hard knowing that he’s pulling with us. So to step away for rest doesn't mean stepping out of line with him (that would be disobedient)… it's actually leaning in closer, fully dependent on Him! That’s the rest we’re after during Summer Sabbath.
There are three main goals for Summer Sabbath at River City:
1.) CELEBRATION 1. We officially launched public gatherings on January 13 of this year, going every other Sunday. Then we hit the ground running on Easter Sunday in late April, and we’ve been meeting every week since then. 2. Since the beginning of April, River City is averaging around 68 people per Sunday, with almost 1/3 of those being 16 and under! That initially presented a challenge for us, as we had no space or leaders to tackle an effective Children’s Ministry — and then God, by his grace, put some pieces together, and now we have a foundational children’s ministry class happening every Sunday, averaging 17 kids each week! A huge thank you to Miranda Krueger and the others who have answered the call to children’s ministry. 3. We also have a counseling ministry that is getting organized and off the ground. Currently, there are 4 counselors either in training or being certified under Toby’s leadership, and before the year is out, we hope to have a form available on our website where folks can sign up for certified Biblical Counseling and discipleship! 4. We’re seeing Community Groups off to a good start, with two Grace Community Church groups changing over to River City Groups, and a new River City group starting since our launch! Our goal is that one day we will see 100% participation in Groups, where people can grow in their understanding of God’s word, caring for each other, and what it means to live our our faith day to day. 5. We’re also seeing River City starting to make an impact in Riverside. In a small town, little acts of service go a long way, and through helping with the 5K run and picking up trash on the streets after the parade we were able to send the message that we care about this city and we want to work for its good. 6. Last, through your faithful giving, we’ve been able to purchase our own chairs and sound equipment, support a pastor, help a few people in need, and begin a building fund, while establishing a Financial Team to help us make sound financial decisions.
That’s pretty special for a church averaging 68 people! The Church really is an unstoppable force when we are using our gifts, our resources, and our time for the glory of God! Sabbath break is first of all a chance to stop and be thankful.
2.) RESET It’s pretty common in the “Church-world” that a new Church year starts after Labor Day as people get back to a regular routine, vacations are over, families are settle back in, etc. It’s a great time to start new sermon series, launch new projects, and help people find and make connections. So, the second part of the Summer Sabbath is to rest for a week to catch our breath before the new Church year kicks off. It’s also a great off-ramp for anyone who needs a break from serving, and also a great on-ramp for people who want to get involved and begin serving. So if you’re needing a break from your current role(s), contact your team leader and let them know. But if you’re able and willing to serve once or twice a month for the next year, here are a few areas that need additional help:
Children’s Ministry - Our little class is filling up, and as it does we need more adults in the room to assist the teacher once or twice a month. Ideally, we would have 3-4 adults in the room on a Sunday morning, and as the class grows, that need may increase.
Musicians - Our Praise Team has been doing a great job, but as you probably have noticed, there are only a couple musicians. If you play an instrument (piano, cello, violin, guitar, bass, drums, etc) we’d love to have you join the team! We rehearse on Thursday evenings, usually in Kalona.
Outreach Coordinator - This person would be in contact with Highland Elementary, TrekFest organizers, and more, to organize teams in and around Riverside, Lone Tree, Hills. In the long term, it would be great to have a city liaison in each of those towns to help make connections and organize any outreach opportunities. If you are good at organizing and planning, and you enjoy the mission of reaching people, this could be a good fit.
Setup & hospitality - Setup teams unload and arrange chairs, tables, and sound equipment each Sunday. The Hospitality team are the friendly faces you see at the doors, or the information table, or brewing coffee. These are great places to start if you’re new!
3.) ANTICIPATION Last, the main reason for a Sabbath rest is to start the new Church year with physical rest. Sometimes we can just get on the “church-wheel” and try to keep it spinning. But we are all human, and we get tired. Galatians 6:9 encourages us to not grow weary in doing good, because in due time we will reap a harvest, if we don’t give up. So we don’t want to grow so weary in “making church happen” that we burn out and give up.
We want to see that harvest happen! We want to see people coming to faith in Christ, getting baptized, learning to walk with Jesus in joy through hardship and pain, and freely giving to others what they have received from Christ. On top of that, we have the promise that Jesus is building his Church through ordinary people who put their trust in Him. So, in anticipation of that harvest, we take a day of rest because we know we will need strength for the race. We pause to reflect on the fact that Jesus doesn’t need us to build His church, but we are thankful for the blessing it is to be part of His chosen people.
EXPECTATIONS FOR SUMMER SABBATH
So what does River City leadership expect us to do on August 11?
First of all, we think it would be a great opportunity to have a neighbor over to your home. Welcome them in and eat with them. Allow God to stir in your heart a way to share your own story with someone — what brought you to faith in Christ and what he’s done in your life. Secondly, it’s a good opportunity to get away for a weekend and rest before the school year, and Church year begin. Or, it’s a great chance to worship in a different way: Visit old friends at Grace, invite another River City couple or family over for lunch and share what God’s been doing in your life, or get alone and spend extended time with the Lord.
I’ll be posting a short video devotional that morning that may help jumpstart your time with the Lord, but our primary goal for August 11 is that you are able to connect with God in a meaningful way that revolves around rest. We will be back at Highland Elementary on August 18 for our first gathering of the Fall, followed by an after-gathering lunch of delicious sweet corn at Railroad Park!