Surely you have heard the phrase or even ushered it yourself. It goes something like this, “I am burned out.” Occasionally it is loose and fluid, in other instances it is tight and solid. People have ushered it within the framework of family relationships. Some have made reference to it regarding their workplace. Students, Athletes, Professionals, and quite literally people from all walks of life have thought it, said it, caved into it, and have hidden behind it. No doubt some may be legitimately in that place. For the authentic Christian, however, can burnout exist? Can a Christ-follower ever be burned out of being God’s son or daughter? Tired? Sure! Challenged? Absolutely! But burned out?
Let me get a little more specific here. By doing so, I want to hone in on the Church. You see, the Church is God’s concept, not man’s. There is no other organism that can accomplish His work because there is no other organism that is ordained and anointed to do it. This will be true until He returns. Then, the Church will be with Him. It has often been said that “no ministry is done in isolation” and that is true. Gifts have been given to the body, which is, His Church. The gifts He gives are for the purpose of working out what God has worked in (Oswald Chambers, The Complete Works). They aren’t for personal benefit or for squandering. The gifts He gives are for the building up of His body.
As I have shared publicly in person, on this blog, and in other forums and gatherings, there is no shortage of materials I receive each week. There are newsletters, web links, book previews, magazines, emails, links, brochures, resource demos, ezines, etc. Some weeks it can be piled pretty high. A common theme and topic that I see, in these days, relates to “Leadership Burnout” and what implications it is having on God’s Church. Consider this statement in one of these resources: “Studies have shown that many pastors and church staff are burning out. They feel the pressure to preach and create programs and events that entertain and inspire congregations, many of whom hardly serve in their church. This means added work for church staff and the faithful volunteers who shoulder most of the weight. The current state is taking its toll.”
I think I understand what they are trying to say and communicate, but a part of me wants to cry out, “Does truly serving, enjoying, and delighting in the Lord lead to burnout? If it does, I cannot say I’ve ever experienced it.” I mean, isn’t our faith a God-ordained, Jesus-led, Spirit-filled journey? Of course! We know it is! I think the problem gets attributed to burnout because, to be frank, people have wrong priorities and tremendous expectations that are more influenced by the world than by the One Who made it and Who is seeing it through to completion. I know pastors, leaders, and servants in the Church who are killing themselves in a pursuit to “make something happen” or to “get something done.” Of all the people in the world who shouldn’t experience burnout, it is the Church. If the Church is burned out so to speak, how will it ever be an example to the world? Answer is, it won’t. Ponder that for a moment.
God is sufficient. He leads us in all truth. He directs our paths. He is our Strong Tower. He provides, He sustains, He energizes, and He gives us rest. Now, let me be clear: The problem is not God — the problem, if any, is us. The Church today desperately needs to return to John 17. I have hope that it will because He is the Head! I believe our God has an incredible plan and purpose for His Church, and I have decided and settled that I want to be “in” on that. Not looking in on it. So in returning to a John 17, we develop a Christ-like vision for our Christian life. We are supernaturally connected, united with the Trinity (read John 17 again, it is Jesus’ prayer).
The Great Commission is our holy Mission, and it is our responsibility to engage the entire body and the world so that we can fulfill it. Instead of hearing and reading all of this on burnout, and how it can be prevented and how to avoid it — I am far more interested in how we can equip the body for the works of ministry. For it is here, in the equipping and going with the right motives that we will discover and rediscover the power of the Body of Christ moving towards full strength. That happens when His Lordship reigns in our hearts, supremely.
Conclusion: When pastors, leaders, servants, and the body as a whole develops Spirit-led cultures that truly connect people to Christ and their community — burnout becomes obsolete. As the transformed and vibrant Church prays, grows, serves, and gives of itself for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His righteousness, it is contagious and life-giving. May we be, and further become, a people after God’s own heart; and like Paul, be obedient to the Heavenly vision.
With joy, hope, and love,