I’ve been there. I’ve faced burnout and frustration in my work. Thankfully, I’ve never “bottomed out,” but I’ve felt near the bottom in my spirit. More than that, I’ve walked through these times with dozens of other leaders.
I’ve learned there are some common indicators that a leader is heading toward burnout. The sooner we can recognize them, the sooner we know to reach out for help.
Here are seven indicators you’re heading for burnout.
Last week we took a look at Jesus’ instructions to the disciples before they headed out. We also took a look at our expectations - we pick up there again in this post.
3) What you may expect from everyone, good or bad (10:21-23) …
Family members will betray you. You will be hated by all on account of My name. They will run you out of cities. When that happens, go on to the next one.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore, be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)
For Christian workers, one of the most significant Scripture passages is the commission the Lord gave His disciples just before sending them out on a short-term assignment. This is found in Matthew 10 and Luke 10. In Luke’s account, the commissioning takes 16 verses, but in Matthew’s, it’s a full 42 verses—so therefore, my favorite, since it’s far more helpful.
At that point, the 12 apostles were something like seminary students, preachers in training with diverse backgrounds and limited experience. (Some of us used to stand on the street corners in the French Quarter preaching. And, we roamed up and down the sidewalks with handfuls of tracts talking to strangers. We were in boot camp, learning how to talk to people about Jesus. That’s what was happening with these disciples.)
The title of this piece may cause you to raise an eyebrow. When we discuss the subject of tolerance or intolerance actions such as immorality and liberal theology tend to jump to the front of our minds. That should certainly be the case in reference to the aforementioned subjects. However, there are occasions when intolerance may burn fuel that should not be wasted.
Consider this example. In Philippians Paul discusses people who were preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry (1:15). Paul says they are preaching Christ, not with a spirit of love, but from selfish ambition in order to stir up trouble for him.
Have you ever been guilty of forcing things? This can happen with people, circumstances, projects or God’s will. I recall an experience I had while building a chain link fence. This involved one of the chain link fence post tops. The post tops are made of a soft but inflexible metal. Too much pressure and they will shatter. While constructing the fence I came to the point when I installed the tops on the metal posts. Everything went smoothly up until a point. However, one of the post tops did not readily slide onto the post. I decided to help it. I gently laid a piece of wood on the piece and struck it with a hammer. I forced it. Guess what? The piece shattered.
“Why does the Sunday school class always expect me to answer all the questions?”
“No other kids ever go to Sunday evening church, and we have to be there every pickin’ time!”
“When others talk or giggle at church events it’s normal, but when I do it I get stared at.”
“They said if I get caught messing up you’d have to resign.”
“And they said, ‘We expected better from a pastor’s child than that,’ and I’m hurt and angry and sick and tired of it. I don’t even want to be there anymore.”
Does it disturb you that God sometimes takes the path of silence? Not only is God silent, but His silence comes at the most (seemingly) inappropriate times. What are those times?
Obviously these examples are a small sampling of God’s silence.
For me, the challenge of God’s silence would be more difficult to bear had He not allowed us to sample this reality in His word. In Matt. 27:46 we find the agonizing prayer of Jesus as He hung on the cross. He felt forsaken by His Father. He felt the silence of Heaven.
Are you a person who will ask for and accept directions? It has been joked that men are not good at following directions. Some smart person said, “The reason Moses wandered in the wilderness for forty years was because he would not ask for directions.” A woman must have made that statement.
The past three years I have worked closely with pastors. I see both the good and the bad side of pastors. I love being a support and encouragement to pastors. However, one of our major drawbacks is a refusal to ask for, accept and follow directions. I realize some of this drawback is who we are as leaders. Leaders lead rather than waiting around for directions. This is a part of our DNA.
Most of the current crop of astronauts say their interest in space exploration was whetted by the television show “Star Trek,” either the original with William Shatner (Captain Kirk) or the “next generation” bunch.
A writer for a more recent televised version of these explorers who “go where no one has ever gone before” has let us in on inside information which I find fascinating.
Over forty years, the six TV series of Star Trek comprise 726 episodes. For the 198 episodes in the series this writer was part of, 155 writers — a staggering number — were employed. So much for continuity, uniformity, theme development, character consistency.
My wife and I are in the process of building a new home. The home is located in the midst of three acres of wooded property. This process led to my purchasing a chain saw. The saw and I are faithful companions. I can spend hours sweating, working and cutting. One aspect of the chain saw routine that I dislike is sharpening the blade. It is a tedious task. However, without a sharp blade the chain saw routine becomes a difficult task.
Chain saw sharpening reminds me of one of the tasks of the pastor. It is essential that a pastor keep his skills sharp for ministry.
Have you ever gone through the effort to stop an app on your cell phone only to find it continues to run in the background? This often happens with cell phones. You can use a program, close the window, leave your phone, and come back later only to find the program is running in the background.
I have a music application on my cell phone that does this on a regular basis. I go through the motions of attempting to close the application but find it is still running in the background.
Several weeks ago my wife, my mother and I went fishing. It was an awesome experience. We visited a catfish pond and within 30 minutes filled our cooler. The only down side to the trip was having to pay for the privilege of fishing.
Is fishing ever a bad idea? Rarely, would be my response. Fishing is relaxing, fun and a good stress reliever. However, fishing often reveals things we had rather leave hidden. The relaxing effect of a fishing trip reveals our need for rest, relaxation and gives us a fresh perspective of life.
Have you seen him lately, The Enemy Within? You are probably thinking this will be a rant against the devil and his tactics. No doubt, Satan needs to be confronted and kept at arm’s length; however, for this discussion I refer to another enemy. The enemy to whom I refer is the enemy within our own hearts. In looking back I am painfully aware that I was often my own worst enemy.
“They don’t call us any more. And the last few times we tried to get together, they had other things prioritized. Something is wrong.”
My wife and I were wondering about our friendship with this couple. It had been good to have someone with whom we could be off-duty. It seemed to us that they did not feel any need to be flossing their spiritual teeth just because they were in the company of a couple who had been appointed to take care of them. But now I felt I had to see them.
“Could I come over for a few minutes? There is something I’d like to talk with you about.”
Several years ago a young man walked up to me and asked this question: “If you were not a preacher, who would you be?” He went on to explain that his question was meant as a thought provoker. He explained that much of our identity is tied to our vocation, possessions, accomplishments and the like. My friend reminded me that we are valuable because God created us and loves us just as we are apart from our accomplishments.
All of us know this to be true. God loves us unconditionally! Love is His nature. “God is love.” (I John 4: 8) Sometimes we forget and need to be reminded of this simple truth. As I pondered my friend’s question I quickly formulated my list of things in which I seek value.
My vocation- I am a pastor. I feel affirmation in being a pastor. I must differentiate my vocation from my standing before God. I need to be reminded I will always be valuable even when I am not serving as a pastor.
After declaring everything to be meaningless, Solomon asked a piercing question: What does a man gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
Everyone pursues something, labors for something, works for something. And Solomon’s point was that all the labor under the sun is meaningless because there really is no gain, no profit in the end.
Do you have trouble giving thanks for some people? These people may cause you to join the Sons of Thunder in hoping God will rain down fire from Heaven. Don’t be so spiritual, you think similar thoughts! LOL!
A few weeks ago I read through I Corinthians. As Paul opens the book he gives thanks for the Corinthian believers. (1:4) As I read those words I thought to myself, “Come on God, give thanks for the Corinthians.” After all the Corinthians were marred by division, jealousy, envy, immorality, lawsuits, marriage issues, questions of Christian freedom, drunkenness, and questions about speaking in tongues. Talk about a church with problems. I might have missed a few of their issues. Giving thanks for such a group would be like giving thanks for a migraine. I was reminded of the command in I Thess. 5:18, “In everything give thanks.” So, if Paul could give thanks for the troubled church in Corinth, what can we learn from him?