This is one of the components that is often overlooked. I’ve seen so many young leaders with a tremendous passion for ministry, burnout in a matter of months.. Why does this happen? Furthermore, why does it happen so frequently? According to a poll performed by a group called The Soul Shepherding Institute, 70% of pastors reported not feeling like they have a close friend. 90% reported that they felt they didn’t receive adequate enough training to meet the demands of ministry. This is causing a tremendous burden to rest upon pastors shoulders. You can visit the site and see all of the other statistics as well, but what I found interesting was this; 50% of all pastors would quit their current ministry, but they can’t find another job.
50%… That’s half of all pastors. They are so discouraged, so burned out, so overwhelmed that they would quit their calling to be a shepherd of God’s people.
What can pastors do to help protect their hearts from this terrible disease? God gave us each other for this very purpose.
Proverbs 17:17 says this, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Friends are meant to love us and to bring us joy. But brothers, they are there when things get hard. I realize that family doesn’t always get along, sometimes those families are broken. But at the core of its design, family is meant to stick together and support one another. As followers of Christ, we are members of God’s family. And as such, that means that we are to be there for one another. Like the Proverb says, we are created for adversity. There is no bigger adversity that man faces than sin and the temptation of sin. To know that Pastors feel that they have no one to fight their own battles with them, it breaks my heart.
Somewhere along the way we have put pastors on a pedestal. We expect them to be the perfect example of a Christ follower and to never struggle with sin…ever. We think they are what the rest of us “normal Christians” should aspire to be like. Then, when we find out that they struggle just as bad and as frequently as we do, we shun them and fire them out of their position.
Don’t mishear me though. I’m not saying that Pastors shouldn’t be held to a higher standard. They absolutely should and scripture actually tells us this. What I am saying though is that we need to understand that our Pastors and Church Leaders are sinful human beings. They all struggle with sin, just like everyone else does. The sooner that we can accept this, the sooner that we can relieve some of the pressure that they are faced with.
Hebrews 3:13 says this, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Some translations say “exhort one another”. What does that word exhort mean? It means to urge strongly, or to warn/give advice. Do we have relationships like that within our church community? That is clearly the standard that is set forth by the early church, why have we traded deep relationships for shallow ones? There is no change that occurs through shallow relationship. There is no change that occurs when we only see the good parts that our brother wants to show us. The change occurs when we walk through the ugly, sin infected world that we all live in. It’s in that place that we can truly encourage our brother and exhort them. To exhort a brother is to point them back to the gospels work in their own hearts.
The Church should be a breeding ground for this kind of community, but instead we see people leaving the church in droves because they don’t feel connected. You see, in Ephesians 2 Paul reminds us that we have not only been reconciled to God through Christ, but we have been reconciled to one another. We weren’t just alienated from God in the garden, we were alienated from one another!
The story goes like this:
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
What is Adams first response when God called to him?
The woman that YOU put here with me..
His first reaction was to put the blame on God and then his wife, when it was his own fault for eating the apple. Sin crept in and caused alienation from God and from each other. This didn’t stop there. There are tons of other stories that show how sin causes broken relationships with another. It’s only through Christ that we can have reconciliation to God and Man. Jesus even gave us the ministry of reconciliation to continue. To bring unity between the body of believers.
Community is a very important aspect of our ministry. We can’t produce fruit without having a healthy, gospel centered community to help support it.
Are you married? The first place you find that community is with your spouse. I’ve seen countless ministry marriages fall apart because the husband was committed to “doing ministry” and he neglected his family. A minister who is more committed to his church than his family, is no minister of the true gospel at all. This is not what God desires for his children or for his laborers. How can you have a ministry to stand on if you aren’t ministering to those closest to you first? We must put our focus on strengthening our marriages first, and then our family second before we can worry about the fruits of ministry.
The title of this post included having a “Healthy Trunk”. What role does the trunk play in the overall job of the tree? It provides protection, structural support and a pathway for nutrients from the roots to flow. The very most inner part of the trunk is actually the strongest part of the trunk. It’s called the Heartwood. The job of the Heartwood is to provide the main, mechanical strength structure of the trunk. It acts like rebar in a concrete pillar. It holds everything together and supports any weight that is placed on top of it. This is necessary for the tree because if it to produce branches, foliage and fruit, then the tree needs to be able to hold that up or else it will fall over and uproot the tree.
This is no different than our life in ministry too. Our job as disciples of Christ is to go and make more disciples and teach them to obey all that Jesus commanded us. We cannot be fruitful disciple makers if we do not have a healthy trunk to hold the weight of the fruit that comes. Will fruit still be produced if we don’t have a good trunk? Yes, yes it will. But, what happens when the fruit outweighs the trunks ability to support it. The whole tree falls over and dies.
I hope that you will consider this thought as you are seeking to make disciples within the context of your ministry. We were created to be in community. I hope that if you don’t currently have that, you will put your ministry on hold until you do find it. Trust me. It will be worth it.