“Battling the Burnout Beast – Pt 1”

“Aware that His disciples were grumbling …, Jesus said to them, "…The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. (Jesus) went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.” (John 6:64-66, emphasis mine)

21st Century Shepherds (i.e. pastors) receive the same assignment from the Lord which the 1st Century Shepherds received … “to equip workers (believers, God’s church) for the divine work of their personal ministries and the ministries of His Church” (Ephesians 4:11-12). Sadly, a growing number of those in His Church today seem to have little to no interest in this divine undertaking. In fact, many professing ‘Christians’ across our nation are turning and walking away from their faith journey with the Lord and with His Church (“His Bride,” Ephesians 5:25-27) at record numbers, a statistical trend that is reaping the spiritual consequences that come with a "Runaway Bride.” Recent studies affirm the devastating impact of this trend:
- Throughout America over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
- Although 4,000 new churches begin each year, well over 7,000 churches close each year (leaving a spiritual void / deficit in our local communities that is expanding every year).

Although our life text for today's WOTD affirms this trend began well before our generation, the growing numbers today have left many church leaders simply bewildered. For many of those shepherds who are seeking to faithfully serve the Lord in their divine calling amidst these challenging times, this spiritual malady weighs heavily upon their hearts. Seeing more and more “professing” Christians resolve themselves to live as “partially-devoted followers” rather than as “fully devoted followers of Christ” (2 Chronicles 16:9) has a tremendously negative impact upon their ministry callings: increases their stress levels, demands longer work hours, produces greater frustrations, all of which incur a high toll upon them physically (their health), spiritually (their personal journey of faith) and emotionally (their overall well-being). Listen to some of the findings that were revealed in the recent studies cited above:
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor's children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
- The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a recent survey of the most-respected professions in America, coming in just above “car salesman.”
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid, and many are left to serve without any pay at all.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years in ministry service.
- Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month. (some with Biblical merit, many without merit)
- 94% of clergy families feel the negative pressures of the pastor's ministry is increasing today.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and unappreciated for his service and sacrifices.
- 80% spouses themselves feel left out and underappreciated by many of their fellow church members.
- And sadly, over 80% of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
(Statistics shared above provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.)

For many of you, the shared statistics above may come as a surprising revelation to the reality of just how many pastors and church leaders are truly struggling today. At some point in the church’s journey, we’ve stopped allowing our leaders to be ‘human’ and have demanded, whether knowingly or unknowingly, for them to ‘super saints’ who are to have an endless supply of energy, time, patience, vision and strength amidst the difficult days ("perilous times" 2 Timothy 3:1-7) of serving as one of God’s chosen leaders "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). Because of this unhealthy and unbiblical level of demand, many church leaders – especially shepherds – continue to serve “in silence” with many of these struggles, often in fear of having their church members unjustly see them as “failures” or “unqualified leaders” of their flocks. This disastrous trend must be acknowledged and lovingly addressed in churches across our nation if our churches are to be effective beacons of God’s love, grace and forgiveness in the tumultuous times of the 21st Century in which we are living.

These trends and issues facing today’s church indeed have a strong personal connection in my own faith journey having vocationally served as a Church Planter-Pastor / Evangelist for nearly 15 years. Our family indeed have faced, and even now is currently facing, much of the stressors already discussed above. In fact, today starts a new faith journey for our family as our current mission assignment with Journey 2427 enters a season of “Ministry Pause” – a God-ordained time to dive deeper with our Lord in greater preparation and divine direction for our journey ahead. In sharing with our church family a few weeks ago, our family re-iterated our firm belief in one of the life truths shared by Dr. Henry Blackaby in Experiencing God that as genuine followers of Christ, “we cannot stay where we are and still go with God” – that is a spiritual impossibility! For various reasons, God has directed our family to enter into this divine season for much needed rest, recharging and restoration. This is a time for us - and for others who care to join alongside us – to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ (Colossians 2:7). Unfortunately, I confess that I have for quiet some time burned the ministry candle at both ends in my service in His Kingdom, though as noble as sacrificial servanthood might be, in recent months due to the unprecedented level of challenges besetting me on numerous fronts, I was rapidly approaching the proverbial "middle" of that ministry life candle. Daily encounters with the “Burnout Beast” was beginning to leave our family intensely "battle weary” from the near continuous time spent on multiple ministry battlefields for the past 15+ years. Although seeking to faithfully serve everyone in the multiple mission areas was a noble and Biblical precept, we have had the Lord graciously show us that we (our family) have done so by serving "well beyond" the protective boundaries which He seeks for us to have established in our own lives and in the life of our family as well.

I pray that the Lord would enable me to authentically share in this "renewal and restoration journey" together through these regular Blog entries / devotions. I have greatly missed these WOTDs during their “unplanned hiatus” these last few months – but my ministry plate was already full beyond capacity and I needed to step back as I sought the Lord’s guidance for the season that is now upon us. Likened to the LifeWalk Messages I share through my preaching ministry, I pray that many will be blessed as they come alongside and hear God’s Word and follow Him into deeper waters of faith - leaving the crowded shores of safety and launching out into the deep (Luke 5:4) where our Lord eagerly awaits us. There will be some who may not like the challenges posed in this spiritual pursuit of His truth - a pursuit that demands that we confront the lingering sins around our life journey which seek to rob us of His joy, His peace and His power! The choice to journey alongside is always yours – the invitation is always open! As with the previous WOTDs, the web pages on life's journey ahead are blank – what the Lord wills to fill them with will be of His choosing, not my own. That is the way I preach – and that is the way I write / share. I hope to share in many victories from this lifelong Quest, as well as the challenges / struggles which are sure to arise along the way. The life trail ahead promises to be a journey filled with examination, revelation, adventure, divine detours and dives into depths not yet reached in our personal relationships with Jesus Christ. I would be humbly honored if you would choose to come alongside me in this journey. Like traveling trail hands on many a journeys made across this great land of ours in its early days, I warmly welcome the blessing of the trail talk / sharing ahead. We welcome your prayers too for our family, our ministry calling-service and for the Lord to be exalted upon every step of the journey ahead in our lives and in each of your lives as well. We've far since left the shoreline and are beyond the breakers - let's Dive Deeper together to explore and receive the hidden treasures which our Lord Jesus has for us all! …Selah!

Today's Spirit-led video by CCM artist Josh Wilson and it can be viewed by clicking on the on the song title, "Before the Morning."

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