Don’t Just Hang On

A few days ago I was in Germany talking to church leaders about keeping your heart fully engaged as a leader over the long haul.

A the end of the talk, I invited people who were running on empty to stand, offering to pray for people who were standing and in need of a touch from God. At first, no one stood, which, if you’re a communicator, always creates a fun moment.

As I said a few more words, a handful of people stood up. But by the time we were ready to pray, half the room was standing. A thousand leaders on their feet. All of them saying it’s been dry, they’re tired and they long for a touch from God.

I won’t forget that picture for a long time. Because I realized what’s at stake. Could you imagine if half the leaders (volunteer or staff) decided within the next year that they just couldn’t do it anymore?

Could you imagine if the leaders who stayed lost their passion and led from a place of fatigue and emptiness rather than strength and passion? Because I know what happens when you get tired; your heart stops being fully engaged.

This is personal for me because I know what it’s like to be tired in ministry, to be fatigued to the level where you’ve lost the energy that fuels your spirit. The good news is it comes back over time if you continue to see God. You can emerge out of a dry season with more energy and passion than you have ever had.

It’s possible. But it’s not automatic. I doesn’t just happen. And after seeing a thousand great, dedicated church leaders on their feet asking for help, I realized again what a silent but critical issue this is in the church.

So first, be honest with yourself. How are you doing, really? If you’re not honest with yourself, you won’t be honest with God, let alone others. How are you?

If you’re in a season where you’re just barely hanging on, dont just hang on. Deal with it. Here are three things you can do to help (at least they’ve helped me):

Tell someone. You can’t go through this alone. Start with a friend -someone who knows you and cares about you and who can tell you what you don’t always want to hear. And if you need to see a counsellor, don’t hesitate. Community is a gift from God. I was so proud of the leaders who stood up as a first step toward acknowledging how they were feeling and that they needed a touch from God. That was so powerful! They told someone.

Take responsibility. Regardless of how you and I got to where we’re at, we’re responsible for our own spiritual growth and our own care. No one can make me better. At a minimum I need to cooperate with what needs to happen. Better still if I resolve to get the help I need.

Put yourself first when it comes to spiritual growth. Sometimes ministry is a place where you receive, but often it’s a place where you give. Replenish your walk. Take time every day to nourish your relationship with God. Read bible passages you will ever preach on. Pray about things that have nothing to do with your work. Find some friendships that restore and rebuild you and spend time with those friends. Get out on your bike and go for a ride. Do something that refuels you.

So, how are you doing? Really?

I think God has a vision of thousands of leaders serving with passion for years into the future. And you know what I believe? He wants you in that picture. He wants your heart fully engaged.

What helps you keep your heart fully engaged?

  • http://pastorbygrace.tumblr.com Ada Wang

    While we need to hang on, I think we also need to literally stop. Not just pause, like most people do at a stop sign, but actually stop! Unless we do, we become more like the harried individuals God doesn’t want us to be and less like the spirit-empowered living witnesses of the gospel.

    Two articles which have greatly influenced me on this emphasis:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/fall/cutsharpen.html
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/summer/presenttense.html

    There is also this devotional by Oswald Chambers in _My Utmost For His Highest_ reminding us that it’s not the needs of the church or its members that determine how and where our energy is spent, but Jesus Christ.

    http://utmost.org/what-is-a-missionary/

    An excerpt:

    In missionary enterprise [or pastoring] the great danger is that God’s call is effaced by the needs of the people until human sympathy absolutely overwhelms the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, the conditions so perplexing, that every power of mind falters and fails. We forget that the one great reason underneath all missionary enterprise is not first the elevation of the people, nor the education of the people, nor their needs; but first and foremost the command of Jesus Christ – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”

  • Rob Duncan

    I will pray for you, Stephen, and for everyone who is feeling “burned out” lately. I guess I’m one too in many respects, but Pastor Carey’s message has encouraged me to keep on keepin’ on! Thank you Pastor for the good word. You and our ministry are in my prayers always! Power in Jesus, Rob.

  • Stephen

    What do you do when you find out – realize – that most of your indoctrination is wrong – shattered by God’s word. There you are, empty, vulnerable and lost. What do you have to hang on to?

    How am I doing? Really?! Barely hanging on. I’m tired; of investing personal energy in areas which just take without any return. Bills don’t always get paid. More time is required to generate less results. Then you are afraid and tired of investing more time for fear that nothing comes of it. As one gets older, the energy tank gets smaller. For an A type personality, gauging success and confidence on the Lord’s grace is a very difficult thing when one has been gauging themselves on their accomplishments.

    Then, as happened in Men’s group this morning, one see’s themselves in the mirror of their friend’s eyes. My MO is not what it should. Now, who am I? Where do I “think” from here?

    Yes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. “God doesn’t give us anymore than we can handle”. The reality is we will get tired handling what He gives us. Working alone doesn’t work.

    So, I’ll be the first to stand up here and admit, I’m tired. I’ve been thinking wrong. Now what?

    I’m in for a long time of pattern changes, which will involve lots of prayer time. Something I’ve done very little of.

    New thinking begins. I wish I had it together like a lot of people around me. – NOT – I wish I had it together like Christ does.

    Dear Lord, I will pray more to give thanks for the things I have, to love you more than I have, to pray more than I have, and to find solace in your work instead of mine. (that’s a tuffy!) Amen.