As an 8th grader, I wanted to be Tony Hawk. I wasn’t satisfied with getting to go to the skate park on weekends. I wanted to win the X-Games every year until I was 100.
Sophomore year, I wanted rule the music scene. I didn’t just want to express myself with music. I wanted to make a life-long career out of my “talent.”
When I was a senior and met Jesus, I got a thirst for ministry. Once I got a taste, I started daydreaming. And again, I didn’t daydream about getting to give a talk at YoungLife. My hopes were to preach full time until I was too old to put together a sentence.
In Bible College I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone. A lot of talk was thrown around about serving God for the rest of your life and dying in the ministry. Though it was left unspoken, I definitely got the impression that if you were truly called to ministry, that’s all you’d ever do.
As I went into ministry, and started talking with other pastors, I noticed that every time someone would have to take a break to focus on their walk with Christ or to recover from burnout, the tone of the conversation would shift.
It wasn’t expressly stated, but the tone conveyed loss and failure. And it wasn’t because of the loss in spiritual health or the failure to rest, it was because they had to take a break from the job. It was as if they didn’t “make it” because there was now a period in their life where they weren’t getting a paycheck from church.
This led me to believe that if I ever needed to stop working at a church for some reason it would be a loss or failure. So in the back of my mind I eliminated that as an option. And something very interesting happens when you do that - you greatly increase your chances of losing touch with your Christian walk and burning out.
We have got to change the way we talk and think about breaks. Ministry comes with deep and unique pressures. We give credit to those who endure them but we should also verbalize praise for those who have the strength to step back from them if needed.
I didn’t fail morally and I didn’t really burn out totally. But over the last 6th months I simply started to feel done with preaching full time. Not done forever. Just for the time being. I actually still wanted to preach, just as a volunteer for a while, which is what I'm doing now. This led to some fear of man. What would other ministers think?
Obviously, the real question is if God sees some sort of a loss or failure in us taking a break from our staff role to get a normal job and release ourselves from ministry pressure. The answer is no.
God isn’t honored by ministry in and of itself.
We don’t stand and clap for the pastor who gets caught in adultery while leading thousands to Jesus. Because there’s a dishonorable disconnect in a man who’s doing ministry but not living with Jesus.
Somewhere deep down we know that God is honored by our love for his Son. The first and great commandment for all of us, even those of us called to shepherd, is to love Him with all our heart.
There are many ways to forsake our pursuit of loving God. And, believe it or not, one of them is caring too much about our call to ministry. The scary part is that ministers don’t even realize they're putting God second, because somehow they start to think of ministry as intrinsically honorable, as if it is loving God.
But ministry is not loving God. It’s a result of loving God. There comes a season where you start to realize you’re mixing it all up.
You start to realize that you’re faking your excitement.
You wake up to your jealousy over other ministers.
You hunger because you haven't fed your own soul.
You hear yourself agreeing to a speaking gig over your anniversary weekend.
You start to drink in the fact that your good and bad moods are totally based on your last “performance.”
And in your emptiness and grind you’re left with a choice - to stay in the ministry while trying to fix some of these things or to take a break and get back to your first love.
I can’t tell you what to do, but don't buy into the unspoken lie that there is somehow loss or failure in taking a break.
If you feel like you need a break, to the glory of God, take a break and get a different job. It won’t hurt you. Or at least it won’t hurt as bad as it will if you’re eventually forced to take a break. And by no means does it decrease your chances to do significant ministry in the future. In fact, it greatly increases them!
It doesn’t disappoint God. It doesn’t make him fear for his church. If you think that you’re needed in any way for God to fulfill his mission in your people’s lives, that just proves you’re making the right decision to take some time away.
Photo Credit: Ty http://bit.ly/1Ui8MVn