Thursday, October 14, 2010
Message to tired pastors everywhere, and yes to their people, too
I run a small blog, and don't get tons of visitors. That's okay, because what I post here I do for the sake of myself and those few but faithful readers who value what God might have to speak to them through my meager words. But I do keep track of how people arrive at here on these pages, and month in and month out there is one consistent search phrase that has led pastors to my site:
"I'm tired of being a pastor"
I know why that search lands pastors here. I wrote a blog post about that very topic a while ago, detailing my struggles with disappointment, with burnout, with striving to find the energy to continue on preaching Christ's precious Gospel. And how that desire which we feel should be a burning flame sometimes sputters to a cold ember.
Pastors, I know what you're going through. I know the depth of pain that prompts you to publicly cry out in anguish and the pressure that only allows you to say it via Google. I've felt the desire to find someone to share my burdens, and I've turned to the anonymity of the internet to do so. You're tired, you're despondent, you despair of the uncertainty of God's calling and even of God's gifting. You're fighting an uphill battle, and you wonder if you will ever, EVER, be given the blessing of seeing fruit produced from your work in the vineyard.
Pastor, take it from one who's been there and will no doubt be there again: You are burned out. For too long you've been operating under your own strength. Your great love for God and your life's sole desire to see people impacted by the same Gospel that has saved you has resulted in your tireless, constant work. But it's work that has changed from when you began. It's now work that the Enemy of the church has very carefully, very subtly shifted off your true focus.
You used to work because Christ called you. You used to preach Christ because you could not keep quiet. Now you work because you want to see fruit.
Not that spiritual fruit is bad . . . it's not. Not in the least. It's what we celebrate. It adds a savor to the work we do that encourages us to keep on keeping on. But it's not your job to produce it. And if you are deep enough in despair to proclaim your weariness to a search engine, I will be you dollars to donuts that your despair is because you so badly want to see fruit that you've forgotten that God--and not you--is the only One who can cause a planted seed to grow and ripen into fruit ripe for harvest.
You've looked with longing for fruit and believed Satan's lie that if it's not growing, you're not faithful. That your Kingdom contributions are worthless. That God can't use you any longer, and that He hasn't been using you for a long, long time.
You've been lied to, and you have believed the lie.
Pastor, my heart breaks for you. Right now I'm choking back tears as I think of you and your dashed dreams and shattered hopes. I know that statistically many of you will continue on working, hoping to work your way out of burnout. I know that out of those who dig deep for the strength to go on another day, many will eventually turn to sexual sin, sabotaging their own ministry just to be shed of the burden. Many others will resign in discouragement. A few will continue to serve behind the facade of a smile, but inside will be dry as dust, faith shriveling day by day under a spiritual drought from which they will never recover. None--let that word soak in--NONE will get through burnout through their own efforts.
Pastor, let me say this to you: I appreciate what you do. You are operating in areas of God's Kingdom that I could never reach, understand, or see. You are sowing Gospel seeds into fields that I will never visit. You are making my precious Christ known to a generation that I will never meet. I place an incredibly high value on you, on your work, upon God's call on your life. I applaud you, and in my prayers I thank God for you.
I appreciate your work, I affirm God's calling on your life, and I am still telling you to STOP. Stop now before it gets too late. Drop the facade, do whatever you have to do, and stop. Rest. Get away from the office and from the demands and from the pressure, take your Bible, go to a secret, quiet place, and get to know Jesus Christ once again. Refresh your heart in Him. Remember the passion you once felt and confess all the reasons and sins that have kept you from serving with zeal.
For God's sake, man . . . take a Sabbath.
For your sake, pastor.
For the sake of your family.
For the sake of your church.
Start today, right now. Walk out of the office and get alone with God, even if it's just for the afternoon. Tell someone what you're going to do and then drop off the face of the earth. God needs this time with you alone, free from all the distractions of ministry, to water your soul.
Take a Sabbath, cry out to God, get honest with Him, and you will find that He will get honest with you. I promise that all the cares and concerns will still be there when you get back. But I also promise that when you are done speaking to God, He will speak to you. And if you listen to His voice, if you do not turn away, if you allow Him to be God and renounce your attempts to take His job, He will refresh you.
He will water your dry soul.
He will lift your discouraged spirit.
He will repair your shattered faith.
He will be your God, and you will be His servant.
God bless you, pastor . . . may you find in Him the rest you need.