Newsletter for Apr 2010
Just a few years ago I read an article about a wealthy businessman who was building a resort center for ministers, particularly pastors, who were experiencing burnout. I have also discovered that there are special seminars, retreat weekends and Christian therapy programs all geared toward helping pastors and other ministers struggling with burnout.
Initially, I thought these things were wonderful ideas since so many pastors quit their church and leave ministry due to burnout, returning to secular employment. But the more I thought about it, something didn’t seem right. I understand the concept of being physically exhausted; scripture records that even Jesus went through times of physical weariness. But the idea of “burnout” started sounding more and more contradictory.
What is burnout? Burnout is when a person reaches the point of, “I just can’t take it anymore…there is too much to do and I can’t handle it one more day…I feel like I’m going to scream or lose my mind…my whole life is falling apart; I’ve got to make a change…the pressure is overwhelming and I just can’t do this anymore!” Some ministers have even seen their health deteriorate and their marriages collapse due to burnout.
Knowing what burnout is my question became, “Why are all of these pastors experiencing burnout?” Someone might answer, “Brother Martin, you should know the answer. You’re a pastor; you know what goes on, how you are always on call 24/7 and have to deal with issues most people never face. You know what it is like to have people come to you over and over with the same problems. Not only that, but you also have to deal with your own family issues.” You know what? All of those things and more are true. But let me share with you what God has shown me about this issue.
Ministry callings are a gift
from God (Ephesians chapter four). We do not get to choose whether we want
to be an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist or some other calling; God has already
decided what He wants us to be. Whatever ministry He has called us into
doesn’t change based upon our feelings. I simply cannot go to God and tell
Him I’m tired of being a pastor and want to be an evangelist for a while
to see what it’s like. If He has called me to be a prophet, then that’s
what I am because, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
Since God is the source of our ministry calling, then He alone has all the information about how we are to fulfill that calling. If I am a pastor, then He knows where and what church I should be pastoring. If I am an evangelist, He knows where I should go to evangelize. Regardless of what ministry He has designated for my life, I can go to no one but Him for the plan and instructions for that ministry.
With all of this being true, then here is what pastors are saying when they hit burnout: “God called me into this ministry. But He has run me ragged and worn me out. Over and over He has piled responsibilities on me. I have nothing left. I don’t know why He has done this to me. Not even secular employers treat employees this way.” However, these feelings are not restricted to ministers. More than one lay person has given up on serving God because he or she is just plain worn out. Essentially, what these people are doing is accusing God of abusing and mistreating them.
In no way do I mean to diminish what these pastors and other people are facing, but there is an inescapable truth we need to face: It is impossible to genuinely experience burnout if you are truly serving God. Some people may jump on that statement and vilify me, believing that until I walk a mile in their shoes I have no way of knowing what they are going through.
They would be right in that I honestly do not know what they are going through. But I do know what God has said in His word:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
…the joy of the LORD is your strength.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
With all of the above being true, then how is it at all possible for a minister or lay person to become devastated with burnout in serving the Lord? What has happened is that they have slowly gotten caught up in the “doing” of ministry and diverted their focus away from the Christ for whom they are ministering. Here is a perfect example from scripture,
Now it came to pass, as
they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman
named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called
Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha
was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost
thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore
that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away
Martha was so caught up in what she was doing for Jesus that she began to get tired and even laid part of the blame on Jesus because He wouldn’t tell Mary to help. But what is interesting is that scripture does not record that Jesus told Martha to get busy serving. Herein lies the problem: so many of these burned-out Christians have exhausted themselves by doing what they think God wants them to do rather than sitting at His feet to find out what He really wants.
I learned a long time ago that no matter how much you do there is always more waiting to be done. God taught me a valuable lesson when He finally got it across to me that I cannot do everything; some things are just going to have to wait – my responsibility is to receive from Him the order in which things are to be done. Some tasks are just going to have to wait, no matter how important I think they are.
This can be such a difficult practice in life, especially for pastors. But God told me that if I get my priorities in order…and sit at His feet the way He desires…then He will see to it that I get everything done He wants done. It is there in His presence that His peace, His joy, His strength and His sustaining power flow into me, making it impossible for burnout to overwhelm my soul.
One of the things God told me quite some time ago is this, “I did not call you to build a church; I called you to build people and my Kingdom.” Too many pastors are focused on trying to build “their” churches; this is a formula for problems, exhaustion, frustration and feelings of defeat.
Another principle that God taught me is that a pastor is not called to serve people, he is called to serve God; it is out of his service to God that he will sufficiently serve those in the church. This is proven by the life and words of Jesus:
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
By focusing exclusively on what the Father wanted, Jesus not only fulfilled His Divine mandate, but He also served people according to the Father’s will. He knew where to go, what to do, and when to start and stop ministering: in Mark 6:45-46 after a time of ministry, He actually sent people away so He could spend time with the Father. What a lesson we could learn from Jesus’ example!
Regardless of what ministry God has called you to fulfill, one thing is for certain: He is your loving Father and He will never lay so much responsibility on you that it steals your joy, disrupts your peace and wears you down to the point of burnout. Stay focused on Him and Isaiah 40:31 will become a manifested reality in your life: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Your servant in Christ,
IT’S FINALLY HERE…OUR 2010 PRAYER AND POWER CONFERENCE!!
And it’s not too late to make plans to attend!
Sunday, April 11 through Friday, April 16
Scheduled speakers are Pastor Dave Roberson and Gary Carpenter
Service times are Sunday, 10:30am and 6:00pm;Monday – Friday 10:00am and 7:00pm.
Pre-service worship 45 minutes before each service (you won’t want to miss this!)
There is no cost to attend, but please register so we can plan ahead for the crowds. A registration form is below, or you can register at our website: www.jmmgrace.com.