Thursday, July 02, 2009

Burn Out

A while back I wrote about my family as a ministry with the intention of following up on that post later. When I started writing that post, the goal was to talk more about the last part (ministry burning us out) than the first (defining my ministry)- a classic case of the Spirit leading me somewhere else than where I was planning to go. So here I am more than a month later, reminded of the need to bring this up by Chip Ingram's most recent blog leading into his current series at Living On The Edge. The Holy Spirit was definately moving because I read his post right after reading Matthew 11:25-30 in my Quiet Time.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mt 11:28-30)

If you look around at today's Church, you could argue that the above passage cannot realistically be true. Far too many disciples of Jesus are burned out and you can understand why. Tuesday I studied the topic of grace with the teen I mentor. I described grace in the context of not being "treat[ed] as our sins deserve" (Psalm 103:10) as the most recognized form of grace. But we forget the other side of the coin, that we cannot earn God's love or forgiveness (examples: 1 Corinthians 15:9-11, Romans 3:22-24, Ephesians 3:7, and of course Ephesians 2:6-9). There's nothing more we can do that Jesus hasn't already done. But we live in a performance-driven society when the most common trait among the successful is "drive". So we burn ourselves out doing more and more "in the name of Jesus" to try and be better and better. But it doesn't work that way.

So what do we do if our ministry is burning us out?

1) Get Away. "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10a). Bob Beltz, the author of Becoming a Man of Prayer, was motivated to write that book after taking a 21-day retreat in "silence and solitude". Imagine how much closer to God you'd be after such a "date with God." 21 days isn't realistic for most of us, but we can definitely spare a Saturday morning. Don't busy yourself, spend time alone with God.

2) Get the Sabbath. I heard once in a lesson that if we don't take the Sabbath, the Sabbath will take us. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27) Don't fill your Sundays with being busy- meeting after meeting after meeting. Take the time off. Worship God. Enjoy your family.

3) Get Help. The issue of Discipleship Journal I mentioned in that previous post had a section dedicated to "Soul Care for Spiritual Leaders". Unfortunately, they don't offer all their articles online to link. But the section written by Gordon MacDonald focused on spiritual elders teaching younger disciples from their own experiences dealing with burning out. The opposite is true: find someone who has faced the same challenges and seek advice.

4) Get On Your Knees. "Is anyone of you in trouble? He should pray." (James 5:13ff) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6) 'Nuff said.

5) Get Grace. This is a biggie. If we don't understand God's unconditional love for us we will always be tempted to burn ourselves out to please him. In Chip's blog that I linked, he relates a lesson from one of his theology professors, "Students, the wisdom of God tells us that God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time." That is only true because God wants the best for us, even when we are not at our best. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) That is Grace.

"May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

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