The longer I am in ministry the more I see the problem of what we have come to know as “burn out”. The story is all too familiar. In the beginning, a person has a passion and a desire for their ministry. They are motivated, encouraging and self sacrificing. Unfortunately, over time that child-like passion and wonderment seems to fade. A person will find themselves in a place where they feel stressed out, over worked, and wrung out for the ministry. The experience and the scene is all too familiar.
The call to ministry is a serious call and should not be taken lightly. It is a self sacrificing call, and to a certain extent, it is a call for all believers. This is why I want to take a look at three practical ways that we can prevent burn out in ministry, and as a result continue to serve with passion and joy.
“Burn out in ministry takes place when there is too much separation from what you do and your walk with God.” – Crawford Loritts
1. Confess your weaknesses
When I heard this quote, a lot of the questions I had about the topic of “burn out” began to be answered. In ministry, and especially in positions of leadership, we think it is expected of us to have everything in order. But, we are also sinners who were saved by the grace of Jesus. We are not immune from the temptations and the brokenness of the world. We are still living in our flesh and we still struggle. We still have our hurts and our weaknesses. Unfortunately, we begin to find ourselves in a place where we cannot display those weaknesses for fear of backlash. As a result, we begin to cover up our struggles, hurts, and battles. Well, if you do that long enough, there will be a big separation between who you are and who you are portraying to be. It will become harder everyday to live in that separation, and to try to keep up the facade. Eventually, people will burn out because of the frustration of living in that separation.
The good news is that Jesus does not ask us to live in that separation. Quite the opposite. He calls on us to confess our sin, struggle, weakness, and look to Him as our source of righteousness and affirmation. The Bible says that Jesus power is made perfect in weakness. This is because in our weakness we can point to Jesus as our strength. If you find yourself in this separation of pretending to be more than you are, your remedy is to confess. Confess your weakness, brokenness, stress, and point to Jesus as the only source of strength that you have. In confession there is relief. There is no longer any pretending, and as a result, there is no more separation between who you are and who you are portraying to be.
2. Walk with Jesus
Another ministry habit that leads to burn out, is when you place ministry instead of relationship. You get so caught up in doing that you stop focusing on being. Jesus is not after you doing certain things, He is after you becoming more like Him. Ministry takes time, effort, sacrifice, and often times you can focus so much on doing things for Jesus, that you neglect to have a relationship with Him.
As a result, you begin to read your Bible in order to teach about Jesus instead of getting to know Jesus. You begin to base your relationship with Jesus on how well your ministry is going. You begin making much of your ministry instead of making much of Jesus. Christian, you must not separate what you do and your walk with God.
A successful ministry flows out of a strong relationship with Jesus. Cultivate that relationship. Your ministry was given to you by Jesus not to just keep you busy, it was given to you as a primary means of God sanctifying you.
God has got it. We all “know” this, but we have a hard time living like it. Jesus is in control. He is in control of your Church, your mission, and your ministry. It is alright to step back and rest. It is alright to turn off your phone and email for a while. It is not only alright, but it is a command that you should sabbath.
Let us not be so prideful as to think that we can’t take a break because everything will fall apart if we do. That is foolish. Surely you’ve realized that you don’t actually have as much control as you think you do.
Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In that same passage He specifies, “rest for your souls”. If we do not rest in Jesus, we will burn out. There is no ministry without Him. There is surely no fruitful and long sustained ministry without Him.
The call to ministry is a great call. As I said before, to a certain extent it is a call for every believer. Let us be mindful and keep watch that we are sustained in ministry by Jesus. Let us confess, walk with Jesus, and rest in Jesus.