This is the sixth post in a series of reflections based on Jared Wilson’s book “The Pastor’s Justification.”
Beautiful explosions filled the sky this past week as people around the United States celebrated Independence Day. One of the evenings when Ava (my almost 8 month old daughter) wasn’t able to sleep, we gazed out the window at these spectacular displays of firepower. The deep canon-like sound filled the room as small canisters burst and illuminated the darkness only to recede into debris.
These fireworks – beautiful displays of power which dissipate in seconds – are sadly a picture of pastoral ministry.
Jared Wilson, in his book The Pastors Justification, says it this way, “Flashy things tend to burn out quickly. And as many have learned, extraordinary gifts can take a man where paltry character cannot keep him.”
Flashy ministry begins as a beautiful light that illuminates the darkness but decays into debris that litters the ground.
How can church leaders – pastors especially – prevent themselves from burning out quickly in the pilgrimage of ministry?
1. Meet with God.
This seems to be an obvious starting point but one that ministers neglect far too often. There are a multitude of pastors that only spend time in the Bible when preparing a sermon or Bible Study. This removes the demands of Scripture from the personal life of the pastor and only places them on the congregants.
Pastor – you cannot lead people to where you have not been yourself.
Each message must be immersed in the presence and power of God. We must discipline our schedules to prioritize time with God above every other demand. We are not CEOs leading small companies; we are mystics inviting people to experience the Living God.
2. Love Your Family.
Your identity is not rooted in your ministry activity – it is rooted in Jesus. Your family is the primary ministry God has given you; not your church. If you are sacrificing your family on the altar of ministry it is only a matter of time until you implode from the effects of your idolatry.
Guard your time. Recognize that most demands are not emergencies and do not require you to immediately leave your family. Be present; quit staring at your stupid smart phone each time you hear the ping of a notification.
3. Discover the Sacred in the Ordinary.
To say the least, ministry is demanding. We rush from one meeting to the next, striving to offer counsel and comfort to those afflicted by deep distress. Margin is stripped away in the face of the urgent.
Friends, we need to slow down.
God is revealing himself through the beauty of nature, the face of a loved one, and the laugh of a child. My daughter Ava has shown me the power of wonder. She is amazed at everything – from the texture of food to petting a cat! If we are going to strive in ministry we need to ask God to restore the wonder we have lost by slowing down and being present in the theater of creation.
What advice would you offer to a church leader to prevent burn out? Let me know by leaving a comment!