Three Ways to Prevent Burnout


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!

You’re a Heretic.


It would be very strange to see a person without skin.

Skin plays a vital role in our lives! It protects the rest of our body from outside factors which could destroy it. I have never heard anyone say that their skin holds them back from truly experiencing life… “I just wish I could be free from my skin so that I could live as a skeleton!” If someone said that they would probably end up in a mental institution!

Yet this is the attitude many of us have towards our bodies…

Have you ever heard the statement, “You are not a body with a spirit, you are a spirit with a body”? Well, it’s wrong. Really wrong. In an excellent article called Rallying the Really Human Things by Vigen Guroian, Guoroian makes an incredible observation – “Body and spirit are not two independent realities, as so many modern people – including many Christians – believe, but rather constitute the one person.

You do realize that in Heaven you won’t be a disjointed spirit hovering through space plucking a harp, right? The Bible speaks about a RESURRECTED BODY… it’s still a body!

Now you’re probably thinking I enjoy metaphysical language and this actually has no bearing on your life today… wrong again!

Since both the BODY and the SPIRIT are good, PHYSICAL is GOOD!
Christians tend to take life too seriously. We view religion as a means of punishing our bodies in order to sanctify our spirits. We neglect to laugh, eat good food, and watch funny movies because we are too… spiritual. Guess what – God created our bodies and he called them good! Yes, they have been marred by the effects of sin, but so has everything else! The Gospel redeems us so that we may truly enjoy life… even the physical part of life!

It is okay to read a book just for fun.

It is okay to enjoy a good meal.

It is okay to actually laugh.

It is okay to get lost in the beauty of nature.

It is okay to find pleasure in your spouse.

Quit taking yourself so seriously!

One of the best ways to redeem the physical is by reading a good FICTION book. Fiction books often paint the physical world with vivid imagery and expertise. These authors have discovered the rare ability of truly being present in the world. We Christians have a tendency to disconnect from our imaginations in honor of non-fiction books. If we are going to spend time reading, we want to read something that is TRUE and encourages us to live a more HOLY life. This is all good but FICTION allows you to understand the depth of human nature and the beauty of God’s creation. It is through reading fiction that you increase in your love for neighbor as you experience the emotions and thoughts of someone other than yourself!

Allow yourself to be caught up in the story. Although it seems like a waste of time, it is incredibly practical and beneficial! While you’re at it, enjoy a glass of wine!

(Any religious people mad yet?)

You’re a HERETIC.
When you believe that the spirit is good and the physical is bad, you’re actually a heretic. This false belief comes out of a dangerous teaching known as Gnosticism. This teaching ravaged the early church and misled many from the true faith. Adherents of Gnosticism believed that we are imprisoned by the physical world. In order to escape, we need to discover a special knowledge and become truly spiritual (gnosis is Greek for “to know”).

Somehow this has infiltrated the church in the 21st century. The result is a bunch of lemon-sucking Christians trying to become free of the very thing that makes them human. The irony is that God became a man in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He did not simply “appear” to be human… he really is 100% human and 100% God.

We would do the world a favor if we laugh, enjoy food, read fiction, exercise our imaginations, and embrace the humanness of our bodies… for the glory of God!

What are some other ways we can can redeem the physical world? Let me know by leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you!

The God of the Ordinary

God of the orindary

When we think about God, our minds naturally drift to extraordinary events and supernatural power. There is nothing bad about this. All throughout Scripture, we see the Lord of the universe bending natural laws to flood the world with His incredible love.

Many people are desperately hungry to experience a supernatural move from God. We buy conference tickets, attend megachurches, go on mission trips, and try everything we possibly can to “experience” Him. First of all, let me state that none of those are inherently wrong. Conferences are good, large churches are good, mission trips are good. The flawed thinking presents itself when we forget to look for God in the ordinariness of life.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the God who reigns above the universe, open your eyes to the God of the ordinary!

1. God is revealed in creation.
Ultimately, everything that is created points to the beauty of a creator. When you marvel at an incredible piece of music, you gain a sense of awe towards the artist. In the same way, as we behold the indescribable beauty of creation, our hearts should be moved to a place of worship towards the God who made all things.

King David reflects on this truth in Psalm 19:1-4
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the earth.”

As you feel the soft breeze wash over your face in the morning or gaze at the beauty of a sunset, let yourself be reminded of the Creator. Creation is the work of HIS hands and it is in these moments of awareness that we experience God. Take your eyes off your smart phone and look at the beautiful theater of life our God has placed around us!

2. God is revealed in people.
Scripture teaches that people are made in the very image of God for the purpose of reflecting his beauty and glory to the world. Every time you look into the eyes of a person, you are seeing someone whom God personally formed and knit together. When you experience the love of a spouse or the bond of a friendship, it is pointing to a greater love and stronger bond found in knowing God.

In C.S. Lewis’ classic book, The Weight of Glory, he puts it this way:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

Take time in your day to actually SEE people. Contemplate on the fact that each person you come into contact with is a masterpiece formed by the Creator.

3. God is revealed in Scripture.
All of us yearn to hear God’s voice. Yet so often, our Bibles (if we have one) are covered with dust in the back of a neglected bookshelf. We often forget about one of the greatest gifts the Creator has endowed on His people. The Bible is a beautiful story of God’s love for sinful humanity.

Not only is the Bible a beautiful piece of literature, it is the Word of God. Scripture is not a lifeless, religious textbook. God presently speaks and encourages people through the power of His Word.

If you want to meet with the Creator, spend time on a daily basis soaking in the presence of His Spirit by meditating upon the Scriptures.

The God of the Universe desires to speak to us far more than we are willing to listen. I would encourage you to live each “ordinary” day with eyes wide open, catching glimpses of God in creation, people, and Scripture.