Our series on Habakkuk seemed very timely for our culture. Habakkuk was a prophet unhappy with all he saw in his world – so he cried out to God.
Check out the second part of our series in this message.
Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today. I hear from pastors on a regular basis facing the stress of ministry.
Here’s a common scenario, which can cause burnout to happen. These may be some of the more common ones I hear. Perhaps this is your story.
And, this is just one scenario. There are so many others. It could be the church is still growing – even rapidly, but the pastor is doing more now than previously. There never seems to be an end to the growth. People are demanding more and more from the pastor – there’s pressure to continue the increases – but, it feels like life is always going to be running out of control.
Pick your own scenario, but I know this – if not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:
No doubt, even if only a few of these are true, these are impacting every area of your life – including your family.
Thanks for serving – even when the serving gets difficult. I am praying for you.
(You can make this post better if you share resources you know of to support pastors who may be facing burnout.)
We don’t know a lot about Habakkuk, but we do know about the day in which he lived. It was a day where the world was increasingly growing darker. There was injustice, immorality, violence and corruption.
Almost like our day. Almost like sitting with a bowl of stale popcorn and watching CNN or Fox News all day, everyday.
Habakkuk is the story of a man who trusted God, yet was very perplexed. He wasn’t happy about all he was seeing. Habakkuk was a bold prophet – and, so he presented his plea to God.
Lord, teach us to pray… (Luke 11:1)
I don’t know about you, but I often feel like the disciples. I am still learning to pray. The fact is I have more knowledge of prayer than I have substance and practice of prayer.
Just being honest. But, I do have some suggestions.
You’re talking to the Creator, God. He is worthy of all our praise. He’s the Holy Father. He puts stars in the sky. At the same time, He paints the belly of a Lady Bug. Never take for granted the privilege of prayer.
Along with being respectful, it is important to be who you are. Don’t attempt to make your words pretty as much as you attempt to make your heart pure. Just as you want your children to be respectful, yet still be themselves, I am convinced God wants that for His children. We are told to call Him “Daddy” (Abba). He wants us to fall in the comfy chair of home in His presence.
God knows already, yet He loves to hear His children talk – just like we do as parents. He wants to know what’s on our mind. We can tell Him if we are angry and still be respectful. Speak truthful when talking to God.
Be open to His voice
Spend intentional time listening – with your Bible open. God most often speaks through the already written Word. But He also speaks through the still small voice like the gentle breeze. Over time, and with lots of practice, you’ll begin to know and hear His voice.
Pray as much as you want and need God’s involvement in your life. How much is that? For me, it’s fairly constant. I pray far less than the need I have for Him. Have a daily routine. Start a prayer list. Do it daily – but mostly, do it as a part of lifestyle more than a part of routine. Prayer is part of a relationship.
And He’s always with you, so take advantage of the closeness you can have through Christ. If you’re sitting at a stop light – pray. If you think of a friend – pray. If you begin to worry – pray. It can be a paragraph, sentence or a couple words. (I’ve prayed “Help me God!” many times.)
Don’t overcomplicate it. Just pray. Talk to God. What a privilege I can encourage you in this way. (Hebrews 4:16)
Of course, all this begins with a belief in Christ as your Savior. This is what makes you His child – a family member. Prayer is ultimately part of a relationship. If you’ve never believed in the One whom lived, died and rose again three days later – begin there. He loves you – just as you are now – and wants you to know Him!
It has been four years since I entered church revitalization after two church plants. I had done something similar previously in ministry. My first church after entering vocational ministry needed revitalization.
I fell in love with the energy of starting something new in church planting. At the same time, I continued to be concerned for churches like the one in which I was raised – the church which has seen better days. I became more convinced we need new energy in both.
This experience of church revitalization has given me the tremendous blessing and opportunity, fueled by this blog platform, to speak not only to church planters (who I still love by the way), but also those who are attempting church revitalization. In the process, of these four years I have learning some things – lots of things.
There appear to be some vital elements for a healthy revitalization to occur.
Granted, the Holy Spirit must show up and God must be glorified. And, we know this can happen with a room of donkeys, but in general terms, working with normal church people (whatever normal means in church work) there are components, which I believe need to be in place to see a church revitalize.
Admitting you need to revitalize
This is hard, isn’t it? I remember shortly after I arrived a senior member of our church visited another church which had undergone revitalization. She saw the excitement and came back with a new understanding. Her comment to one of our staff members was, “We have to change some things, don’t we? We don’t have a choice!” The church as a whole must come to this level of understanding.
Letting go of right to control
This is what makes or breaks revitalization in many churches. If the “No Change Allowed” sign is hung – or even the “but not that change” – on issues which aren’t even Biblical, then revitalizing the church will be very difficult.
A vision of something better
What’s next for this church? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? There must be a compelling vision, such as loving a community for Christ and clear avenues for people to be involved in reaching the vision.
A history worth revitalizing
This will be the toughest part of this post. There are some toxic churches which seem to have never been healthy. They’ve run off every pastor they’ve called. Many of these churches wouldn’t follow Jesus well either. They are stuck in systems and personal agendas – usually run by a few people – and aren’t going to budge. (I realize this is a cruel statement, but it is sadly a very repeated reality.)
Leadership willing to lead change
This is more than the pastor. In many cases, the pastor is only the figure head of vision and change. Change is hard. It requires trusted leaders within the church willing to step up and lead along side the pastor. There is a difference in trust and popularity as a leader. Sometimes the pastor may be popular, but hasn’t earned the level of trust longer term members have. The pastor needs these people to help guide change. Collective leadership is so important – always – but, especially in the early days of revitalization.
The tenacity to weather storms
It won’t be easy. It’s far easier to start something than to try to grow again after a period of decline. The longer the decline the longer it will take to see revitalization. Some pastors, leaders and churches have the patience. Some don’t.
A few committed people
You need some people already established in the church – not just leadership – who love the church more than their personal agenda. These might be leaders or might not. Many times newer people attracted during times of change don’t have the roots or credibility to do this. As great as they are – and even with them as a primary focus – the church needs longer term people to embrace a new future. These people have to support the pastor, speak up for the changes and create an atmosphere conducive for growth again.
Well, those are my candid observations. They aren’t based solely on opinion, but they certainly aren’t a product of extensive research either. They are derived from my experience and hundreds of conversations with other pastors and my own personal experience.
Here’s to revitalizing the church to the glory of God!
I have a heart for hurting pastors. Several years ago I bought the domain name HurtingPastors.com, but have yet to do anything with it. My schedule hasn’t allowed the time, but my heart for pastors in trouble has continued to grow stronger. Over the years, and in a few different churches, we have been blessed to have some of the pastors in between ministries, or who have dropped out of ministry, attend our church while they recover.
So recently when another mega church pastor hit the news for having been removed from the pastorate my heart went out to him. And, there have been so many others in recent years. It breaks my heart, because I believe it surely must break the heart of God. And, gives the enemy a (temporary) laugh.
But, my heart, as much as it goes out to the ones we’ve known, goes out equally to the ones we don’t. Surely all pastors are under temptation. Some more than others on any given day.
So, I have a question. It won’t be for all my readers today, but I hope it reaches the one who needs it most – whoever you are.
Here is my question:
While the Christian world was buzzing a few weeks ago about pastor Perry Noble – were you sweating profusely thinking – “Wow! It could have been me!”?
Perry was busted. Bloggers and Christian news agencies were scrambling to get a post up about his dismissal from the church due to struggles with alcoholism. Thankfully, most of the posts I read were encouraging of grace. The responses I have seen from Perry have been remorseful and, honestly, helpful to Newspring and the Body of Christ in dealing with yet another fallen pastor story. He admitted his wrong, asked forgiveness, agreed with the decision of church elders and encouraged people to continue attending and supporting the leadership of the church.
By all appearances we didn’t shoot our wounded too badly this time. Good job, church.
(Honestly, this is one of the reasons I usually choose not to post on these stories – and, why I waited on this one. I don’t want to appear to capitalize on the downfall of one of our own.)
But, my heart goes out to the other group I mentioned. I’m not ignoring Perry. I certainly pray the best for him. I have met him a couple times, and although we are not personal friends, I would certainly help him any way I could to seek restoration.
I just got the feeling Perry’s story probably had a far reaching impact – well beyond Perry and the Newspring family.
Because Perry was such a public figure – because his sins were made widely known – because he was removed in such a public way – there were countless others who could have been – but weren’t. The story could have easily been about you. This time it wasn’t.
Perry was busted. And, for now, there are other pastors still able to hide their sins.
Those are the ones to whom I am writing. If reading of Perry’s downfall caused you to cringe a little – if conviction began to rise in you and you felt a sweltering of guilt in your gut – this post is for you!
If you have hidden sins of alcoholism, drugs, pornography – maybe even an affair – I want to say a word to you. If you’re caught in depression – or emotionally you are about to crash – if the weight and the secrecy of your sin is overbearing – will you keep reading?
Jesus loves you. Yea, He still does. You hopefully teach this to your church every Sunday. Please, know it applies to you also. Still.
You need help. You know this. Again, you would tell anyone in the church this who was living in the sin in which you are living. What makes you think you can do this on your own. We aren’t designed by our Creater to do life alone. Yes, you’ve probably been crying out to Him, and you should continue to do so. You should be wise to whom you confess, but God designed community for times like these.
It will be hard to admit. No sugar-coating here. I’m not pretending otherwise. Saying the first words – admitting the sin – those will be some of the most difficult words you’ve ever spoken. The hardest step will be telling the people you love the most.
Consequences will be what they will. Yea, I know, this is the one which scares you most. And, we don’t always get a reprieve from consequences. No guarantees the mercy of God will remove them from you. Sometimes, however, our mind is capable of a worst case scenario far greater than reality. The focus in your mind should be less on the consequences, however, and more on the recovery you want to eventually experience.
It’s better to come forward on your own. It is. There is less of a scandal this way. It won’t be as messy. Control is not what you should be seeking now, but it will help you feel less out of control.
You probably have more supporters than you think you do. There are people who will love you even at your worst. These are the genuine people. They weren’t following or loving you because you held a position of authority. They were following and loving you because you are you. And, what a blessing these people will be when they are truly revealed. And, there are those people around you. I’m sure of it.
The other side is brighter than today. Because this side is miserable, isn’t it? Hiding. The lies. The lies to cover up the lies. The lies you even tell yourself. Not feeling you are doing your best. The hidden guilt and shame. How much longer do you want to feel this way?
Some will disagree with where and when – and, I wouldn’t worry about this right now – but, I believe if God placed a call on your life it is still there today. Part of your recovery may be figuring out where God will use you next. He loves to restore people and use them as testimonies of His grace. The Bible we love and teach is full of these stories. Cling to them now and let them fuel you for the days ahead.
Please know my goal is to help, not produce further injury. If you’ve got coal to dump on fallen pastors – or others – keep trolling, please.
Also, and I edited the post to include this comment, this advice applies to more people than pastors. They just seem to be the ones who make the news and our large part of my readership.
In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear sometimes.
One part of the drama of messiness which always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times the hardest repercussion is the gossip which occurs about the people involved and the situation which occurred.
I have been the victim of unfair gossip. I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. Gossip has become something I hate, because I have seen it destroy so many people!
Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace.
(Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 – the Bible talks a great deal about this issue.)
With this in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for stopping, or at least slowing, the spread of gossip.
Will you consider each and internalize them – as needed?
If the shoe fits will you wear it?
Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!
Don’t repeat something unless you know it to be true first hand.
Second hand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating something. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others. By the way, reading it on Facebook does not make it true.
Don’t repeat unless it is helpful to do so, you have a vested interest and permission.
Never share another person’s story unless you have permission to share or what your sharing is equally your story as to the other person’s. It is almost always gossip if anything is shared otherwise.
Don’t “confess” other people’s sins.
Unless you are in physical danger – even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s. Doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse.
If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened.
Do not share your commentary on the situation or your “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened. Just the facts – as you know them to be true.
Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story.
Instead of telling their story – instead of spreading gossip – pray for them and your willpower not to share anything you shouldn’t.
When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide.
Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes.
Even when it is your story you usually don’t have to tell the world. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip – and, the more people who will be injured.
If my tone seems intent about the issue it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people live in healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.
Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here. What else would you add?
Are you struggling to understand faith?
I have learned to understand faith I have to put it in terms of a relationship. When we speak of a Biblical faith, we are speaking in terms of having faith – trusting – based upon our relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.
With this in mind, based on my understanding of Scripture…
1. Faith is defined for us as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
2. Faith believes even when it makes no sense to believe, not because of the proof before you, but because of the trust you place in the object of your faith.
3. Faith is based on the will of the person in whom you place your faith, not my will. This is huge to understand. You can have faith the person you love most will never hurt you, for example, but whether they do or not is up to their will, not yours.
4. Biblical faith is in a person, the person of God. (God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – they are One.) Faith is not in me or my abilities, but on God and His abilities.
5. When Jesus used the illustration of moving mountains He was giving an example of the power of God and how we should place our whole faith in Him. He was not talking about the power of my ability to have faith, but rather the power of the One in whom we place our faith. If God’s will is to move a mountain, He will surely move it. You can even ask Him to by faith.
6. When we talk about faith in God then, we are talking about His will, not our will. Again, this is another huge point. This is how Jesus taught us to pray….”Our Father, who is in Heaven – Thy will be done”. Faith is based on God’s agenda, not my agenda. It’s not your ability to move mountains. It is God’s ability. You have no power over God with your faith. Again, it’s not your will to move mountains; it’s God’s will. We can’t command God to do anything regardless of the size of our faith – because, faith is based on God’s will, not our own.
7. Faith is based on the promises and the character of God, not our hopes or desires. We often miss this one. When you struggle with faith, you don’t doubt your ability – you doubt God’s ability. Sometimes we get upset God hasn’t done something we think He should do, but God never promised to do it. He keeps His promises. You can trust His character – without reservation. God is always going to do what is best. If God has promised something you can absolutely, without any reservations, have faith. And, so, you can also know if God hasn’t done it He hasn’t promised He will – or it is not in His timing yet. You may not always understand what God did or why, but you can always have faith He is acting within His goodness and love.
8. When you pray by faith then, you are praying with the understanding you trust God to do His will in your life, based not on your wishes or desires, but on what He has promised to do. Some things we can always have faith God will do, because he has promised to do them, such as “love you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), “work all things for good” (Romans 8:28) and “never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). You can have peace in this world – Jesus promised this. (John 14:27) You don’t have to be afraid. (Isaiah 41:10) You don’t have to worry. Jesus made you a promise. (Matthew 6:25)
We can’t, however, have faith God will heal every sickness, because He’s not promised He will. We can pray He will – and we should. We can hope He will, but we can only have faith in what He has promised to do. And, in fact, God promised we would have trials – He promised we would need Him daily – and, praise God, He also promised throughout all tribulations we can rejoice in our sufferings – and our Heavenvly reward will be worth far more.
9. God is trustworthy – worthy of our faith. I love how The Message Version puts 1 Thessalonians 5:24, “The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!” Do what? His will. Faith in the person of God is based then on your trust He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.
10. When your faith lines up with God’s will, you can absolutely, positively, unquestionably claim by faith God’s will be done. One of the reasons it is so important to know God personally is so we will know His will, so we can know how to pray in God’s will. (Romans 12:1-2)
You can ask God to do anything – and you should. Pray continually. Seek Him continually. Have faith God will keep His promises to you. He will. If you are a believer this should be a huge encouragement to you. The greatest days for a believer are still to come. Eternity will be glorious. God promised. Have faith in this.
Understanding Biblical faith is critical to maturing in our faith. Now, take a minute and read the “faith chapter”, as it has been called. Hebrews 11.
How does a once good marriage fall apart?
I get asked this question when it becomes public a marriage everyone thought was rock solid falls apart.
As the song goes — It’s a slow fade. A good marriage doesn’t deteriorate overnight. It diminishes gradually.
There are probably lots of reasons. There are usually a few common causes in my experience.
Many times couples are destroying their marriage – and, most times, it’s not intentional and they didn’t even know it was occurring. So, let me address this to those who may be in a season – or an upcoming season – where a good marriage is in jeopardy. (Satan loves those seasons.)
Other interests come between you.
Typical dangerous scenario: The couple hasn’t been communicating well, life is stressed, and suddenly a friendly voice or a pretty smile says an affirming word at the office. Happens everyday.
It could be a relationship – even good relationships like children or other friends – or a hobby, or work, but something gets a higher priority than the marriage. There was probably once a time when the two of you could “take on the world”. Nothing could come between you. You were inseparable. But, other things began to grab one or both of your attention – slowly, over time. Outside distractions will destroy a good marriage.
(I have also seen solid couples who once were so committed to the church. It was a stabilizing place for them. They found their friends there and their weekly encouragement. Gradually they get off track and are infrequent attenders at best. It provides a whole for the enemy.)
Are there distractions coming between you and your marriage?
Every couple is different – and every individual. I have found there is often one who doesn’t mind conflict and one who runs from it. There may be one who little things to bother and one nothing seems to phase. (Drawers continually left slightly open or clothes on the floor can prove to be a major problem if never addressed.) And, there are all kinds of combinations in between. But, when conflict develops at some point it must be addressed. Hidden pain never disappears on its own. And, many couples simply don’t know how to address conflict. (Get help if you don’t.)
Conflict left unattended sometimes sits like it never existed. But, oh it did. And, it does. Someone is holding on to it. Trust me. And, the longer it sits the deeper the wedge it causes. Someone reading this may be allowing an injury from years ago to continue to haunt you. Your spouse may not even know the hurt is still there.
The couple stops dreaming together.
When a couple is dating they have lots of dreams together. They discuss their future. They dream about where they will live and travel. They dream about family and adventure. It’s an energy which fuels the relationship. When it stops. The fuel it brought stops.
Many times we get so distracted with life stuff – the kids, work, paying the bills – it becomes all we have to talk about anymore. Those things we once dreamed about are replaced with current demands. This is natural, but it can de-fuel a marriage.
When is the last time you spent time talking about the future – your future as a couple?
I’ve long said this is one of the leading causes of marriages unraveling. Couples quit dating – quit laughing – quit having fun together. They get caught in the routines and busyness of life. Boredom sets in and the closeness they once shared begins to drift. The enemy love this and suddenly one or both spouses seek excitement elsewhere. Dangerous.
Do you remember when you once couldn’t wait to see your spouse again? You were newly involved and they were the first person you thought about in the morning and the last person at night? What was it about them which captured your attention about them? Chances are it’s still there – you simply haven’t noticed in a while.
When is the last time you belly laughed with your spouse? When was the last time you remember the marriage being “fun”?
Living separate agendas.
It’s okay to have separate identities. It’s okay to have separate interests. I would even encourage it. It keeps things interesting. But, it’s not okay to have separate agendas. The agenda of a marriage should be two very different people blending those differences into one. When this is not happening — the strength of the marriage will slowly — or quickly — fade.
Is it time to get back on the same page with each other? We have found sometimes (many times) we need to set aside time – just the two of us – to reconnect and get realigned with where we are as a couple and where we are going.
It will take intentionality on your part – and granted on both of your parts – to address these issues. But, a good marriage is worth the effort.
I’m praying for your marriage — as I continue to pray for mine. Stand firm.
There is one common struggle every pastor seems to face. I’ve seen it dozens of pastors. I often hear it on Mondays – even after a great Sunday. I’ve been guilty of this one – many times. It was true in church planting and in church revitalization.
And, this common struggle, I’m not sure, but it could be a common struggle for every leader, regardless of what they are leading.
The struggle –
Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email – and our whole day is ruined.
We can have one season of struggle and we forget all the seasons of triumph – or all the promises for future reward.
We can miss the blessings God is providing all around us by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please – regardless of what we do. We can live in gloom and doom about a present situation, forgetting how God has blessed us and how He has promised to bless us in days to come.
Are you ever guilty of this? Am I alone here?
The Bible is not silent about this struggle. Elijah – who the book of James tells us was a person just like us – fell apart with one threat from Jezebel after he had had tremendous success in ministry. (1 Kings 19)
It really is a common struggle. A common temptation to see the negative immediate reality, over the bigger picture positives of what God has done and is doing.
I don’t know, this is speculation on my part, but I think this struggle may have existed throughout the Bible with God’s people. For example, consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement – Jeremiah 29:11.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Put it in the context in which it was delivered. Notice Vs. 10
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Emphasis mine.)
One of the greatest promises – a promise God is in control and has a masterful future planned. This promise fits well on coffee mugs and desk plaques. We love it so much.
But, what do you think the people heard when this great promise was revealed by the prophet?
Again, it’s speculation on my part, but don’t you think when the people heard those words it was the “seventy years” of captivity they were about to face which jumped out to them more than the “future and hope“?
Yet, which do you think was God’s intent – to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer correctly.)
Again, everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but one setback – one season of decline in church attendance – one negative email – can destroy your perception of reality. Common struggle.
This is why, as pastors – as leaders – as people of God – we must keep our mind and focus on the bigger picture. A focus on what God is calling us to do – what He is currently doing – and, ultimately, what He has promised to do – rather than the voices of the negative minority.
The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here in this struggle?