Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Mark-Rutland-PastorA decade ago I went through the darkest time of my adult life that threatened my marriage and my leadership. It was a classic case of leader burnout. For me, it was an eclipse of the sun.

The problem was that I lost touch with my own core connection on the inside. My deep love for my God and my wife became compromised. I became an angry, dark soul at home. I made bad choices and barely held serious depression at bay. In public, I hid my loneliness and torment. At home I didn’t.

I wasn’t the first leader to experience the toxic syndrome of outward success and inner failure. Tragically, I won’t be the last. What I now know is that you can turn it around—by the grace of God.

And with a loving wife, I got through it. A wise counselor helped. A couple of true friends were indispensable. There were many days when bailing out was a temptation. It certainly looked easier than hacking on through a dark jungle of depression. But hack we did. Now that I’m through it and on the other side, I am grateful for what I learned. Here’s the short list of those lessons:

Success can be toxic. You need to know that. Not just hear it or read it—know it. Someone once said the only thing worse than failure issuccess. The thinner you are stretched on the surface, the more toxic your inner life becomes. Don’t be deceived about this.

Go back on the inside.Are you spending most of your leadership energy on the outside? Then go back on the inside. Remember those things that are real. Hold to them. Do them again. Carve out time for your soul, your true self and your most precious relationships.

Before a marriage can be turned around, reality must be faced. How unhappy is your spouse, really? How wretched are you to live with, really? How long has it been since you sought your self, your soul or your God, really?

Turnaround will require emotional investment and time. Kindness. Humility. Servanthood. They are expensive and require deep investment. The main thing it will cost you is time. That precious and limited commodity, which too many leaders spend in all of life’s elsewheres, must be reallocated. There is no quick way to turn a home’s culture from toxicity to wholeness. Time is medicine, and it works—but often at what feels like an excruciatingly slow pace.

Being self-aware and vigilant to monitor your inner self is non-negotiable.You have to develop something substantial and meaningful—a rich inner life that keeps you in balance. Unshakable values keep you even-keeled. Protect yourself and your family to preserve what makes you human and whole.

Stay free in God’s hand. This is the most important truth I have learned about staying healthy as a leader. There was only one thing that kept me sane during those hard years I spent as pastor of Calvary Assembly. Every Sunday morning, as I walked to the pulpit I prayed, “Lord, I didn’t ask for this position, and I don’t have to have it. If today is the day to leave it, I’m good with that.” That realization kept me loose. It kept me from acting out of fear. It made it possible for me to make hard decisions. When I made mistakes, that liberty made it possible for me to keep going. Of course I preferred success to failure, but I did not live in fear of failure.

If your sense of self or identify is completely tied up in your role as leader of your organization, you won’t be able to keep a loose hold on your position. I know this firsthand. What we grasp most tightly becomes deformed. Your church or organization doesn’t define you. If you can keep that in mind, you can bring your unique vision to bear on the church you are called upon to lead.   


Dr. Mark Rutland recently released his 14th book, ReLaunch: How To Stage An Organizational Comeback. Copyright ©2013 Mark Rutland. ReLaunch published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce in any way, including use in emails or on websites. All rights reserved.

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • Don't bring your sermons in for a crash landing.

    4 Terrible Ways to Close a Sermon

    People need an opportunity to respond to the Word of God.

  • Pastors and ministry leaders should be bold in preaching against the murder of unborn babies.

    Kingdom Influence: A Challenge to Young Pastors and Leaders

    Jentezen Franklin urges ministry leaders to be strong and courageous in dealing with these issues ...

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders