I’m amazed at the number of senior pastors that are stepping down—not only from leading their churches, but ministry in general—because they’re worn down physically, emotionally & spiritually by the labor of ministry.

Time after time I hear senior leaders tell me they are simply exhausted. And if you peek behind the curtain, more often than not it’s the ‘churched’ people in the congregation doing the damage through constant political battles, derailing vision and bickering over petty issues. If more people had the greater good in mind instead of focusing on their own agendas, one can only wonder what might happen to advance the Kingdom.

We have boards, elders and deacons to keep senior leaders accountable, but who is holding the congregation in check and to the same standards? Who is refueling the pastor?

It’s not only disheartening but alarming. Leaders once on fire with a vision to make a difference are leaving ministry. Not because of moral failures or scandal but because the daily grind of people and politics eventually took everything they had and left them with nothing more to offer.


4 Replies to “Burned”

  1. Burnout is inherent to our design. I’ve been in several church traditions (denominations) and they are all hierarchical, placing undue pressure on the “leader” at the top, usually a Shepherd/Teacher ill-suited for a CEO role. Why do we persist in this when Ephesians clearly lays out a nonhierarchical model (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers) that makes all roles necessary and complimentary? The body should be equipping, encouraging, and self-policing the body. Whether you call it “polycentric,” “five-fold,” or something else, we must find a way to restore our body to one head: Jesus. As long as we elevate individuals they will buckle, burn out, or resign, only to be replaced by another. We evangelicals generate white smoke in our chimneys, too.

  2. Personally, I think there are two factors. The first is that our churches and congregations have become complacent by the riches and ease of our culture. People feel entitled to a certain type of life and don’t understand sacrifice or the concept of suffering. Unfortunately, I believe it’s because people are not modeled this behavior by their leaders/pastors. Truly, everything DOES rise and fall on the leadership of the people. Yes it’s true, some won’t be lead. But many want to be. They need a leader who is willing to wait 30+ years like an Abraham, or a decade like a Joseph, for the fulfillment of the dream.

    We’ve lost the fine art Paul talked about of participating in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to “suffer”, really suffer in America when there is so much plenty all around us.

    The 2nd is also a burden of leadership: there is no vision or a clear vision. Most younger pastors I talk to just want to grow big, but have no idea how to do so. Numbers is the game. To be fair, most of our models are big churches, and who doesn’t want to be in those churches. But when the numbers don’t come and money doesn’t flow, pastors get burnt out and give up.

    I hope this isn’t taken as judgmental because that’s not my purpose. In fact, these are the hard lessons I’ve had to learn personally and there were many times I too have wanted to give up and give in. What I’ve learned (learning) is that perseverance is not only a spiritual fruit, but necessary for effective ministry and life. As leaders, we must persevere through the difficult times and teach our people to do so as well.

    Is it any wonder that the words we long to hear most are, “Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant.”? We must be faithful in all situations to the calling and vision from God. It’s how He grows strong leaders and followers.

    1. Great points, Mark. I think you’re spot on. Especially in the leadership department. Although with many of the pastors I’m thinking of, it’s less about leadership for them and more that they eventually don’t feel like it’s worth the effort anymore. Which is heartbreaking.

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