I heard the story again last week. A pastor I know announced his resignation. No moral failure. No severe crisis at the church. No major family problems. No sickness. He was simply burned out. That’s how he described it. He said he had gotten to the point that he was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.
So he quit, without another job. His church family was stunned.
I admit I haven’t seen recent statistics on pastoral burnout but, at least anecdotally, it’s high. It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear another story of a burnout victim in pastoral ministry.
Prayer and fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the life of the pastor. We know that prayer and fasting was not only a part of the lifestyle of many major leaders in the Scripture, but even in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to focus on prayer and fasting in the life of the pastor.
What Is It?
Fasting is abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind. It is when you neglect the most natural thing your body desires, which is food, in order to pursue the God of heaven to do something supernatural in your life. Prayer and fasting is not a hoop you jump through in order to try to catch the attention of God. It is far more significant than a self-determined tactic to get God’s attention. We cannot manipulate God.
Teaching people about Jesus through the Scriptures is one of my favorite things to do. But over the years, I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.
If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too. So I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.
As a teacher your job is not to …
I gave you your master's house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. — 2 Samuel 12:8-9
The life of King David was filled with numerous triumphs, conquests, and successes. He single-handedly took down Goliath with a sling and a stone. He wrote many of the psalms from which we find comfort in our times of difficulty. He presided over the nation of Israel and was considered by many to be its greatest leader.
David also learned a harsh lesson about the importance of trust. While sitting on his rooftop one day (when he should have been at war), he saw Bathsheba bathing and sent for her. This act led to adultery, the murder of Uriah the Hittite, and a cover-up of the whole situation. Only when the prophet Nathan confronted David about his actions did the king ask God for forgiveness. However, the Lord did not let David off easy. The child he fathered with Bathsheba died, there was a constant threat of murder in his family, and his son Absalom caused David problems until he was killed in battle.
When someone is trusted with a leadership role, they are given the opportunity to use their talents, time, and influence for causes bigger than themselves. As they make good decisions while showing integrity and concern for others, they earn trust. John Maxwell likens this to putting change in their pocket. However, when they betray that trust, it becomes difficult to regain. In addition, the leader has to pay some of their change back to the people. When one runs out of change, trust is gone. And when trust is gone, the leader ceases to be a leader.
King David's story should serve as a reminder of the importance of trust and how quickly it can disappear. Allow God to mold and refine your character so that your decisions will inspire others to trust your abilities.
Having planted two churches and now working with church planters on a regular basis in a coaching capacity, I know first hand the fears associated with the situation. It’s a leap of faith and one God is calling many to these days.
My theory here is that recognizing the fear and realizing their legitimacy is part of guarding our hearts against them. The fact remains that for a church plant to be successful, at least in Kingdom terms, God must provide His grace.
Here are 5 legitimate fears of church planters:
I just got off the phone with a good friend. He is in a situation where the leader of his congregation is abusing the power that God has given him. As we talked about this I said, “Often a leader will surround himself with weak, yes-men, so no one will ever challenge him. Other gifted, strong leaders will be pushed aside, even though they could help build the vision, because the leader is threatened.”
My friend added, “In the end, he becomes the emperor with no clothes. And no one will tell him.”
Here are four ways to keep from becoming an insecure, abusive leader that produces little or rotten fruit.