Battling Burn-out Like a Boss (as leaders in the faith)

Episode 68

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-Begin Transcript –

Welcome to The Kingdom Hero Show, where CHRIST is KING and the TRUTH matters! Our mission: To advance the Kingdom of God through study of the Word and making real-world application of Godly character and Kingdom-mindedness.

On today’s program, how do we handle that brick wall we all hit from time to time during our walk with God – especially as leaders of the faith. Preachers, teachers, other spiritual leaders, and anyone who God has given a ministry to – at some point, we all get worn down and fatigued. We’ll talk about some ways to combat this feeling of burn-out in just a moment.

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Show of hands – who here has ever felt spiritually drained? You haven’t lost your faith, but you’re losing your fire. Maybe you’ve been serving faithfully in the church for a long time, and you’re just tired and feel like you’re enthusiasm has waned. Perhaps you are even thinking of hanging it up. I have an important message for you – that feeling is completely NORMAL.

A friend of mine recently posted a request for prayer for this same reason. He’s a pastor and an evangelist, heavily involved in ministry, and he also does a podcast. Lately, all the responsibilities have been weighing on him and he’s feeling a bit drained. I immediately felt the Holy Spirit prodding me to reach out to this brother in Christ with some encouragement. That was greatly the reason I decided to focus on burnout during today’s show.

We all want to be Kingdom Heroes and giants of the faith, but as human beings, we have to remember that we do get tired occasionally. It’s perfectly natural to feel that way, so don’t be ashamed of it. The guilt that creeps in is NOT from God. That’s the devil trying to bring you down. He’s also the one who tells you to just quit. The thing is, simply forcing yourself to keep going when you’re burning out is just as bad an idea as quitting altogether. Because the end result will be the same, you’ll eventually hit that wall and give out.

So what’s the answer? If you can’t quit and you can’t keep going, what’s left? Simple. You need a break. I’m not talking about giving yourself an excuse to quit completely, but rather a well planned and purposeful time off. It’s just like when our bodies get physically and emotionally and mentally tired by the end of the day, and we have to sleep. As we get older, an occasional midday nap helps, too. But you get the point – rest is every bit as important as work. God ordained this concept in Genesis.

Genesis 2:2 plainly states that “He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” Now why does it say that? Why did God bother to inspire Moses to put that into the account of creation? Yes, it leads to the whole idea of the sabbath and keeping a holy day each week set aside especially for honoring God. But the sabbath idea also includes doing no work on that day. See, God didn’t need to rest because making the universe made Him tired and sleepy. Instead, He was setting an example for us because He knew that we couldn’t always be about even our Father’s work 24/7/365. We have to rest.

And I think the book of Hebrews drives this point home. Hebrews 4:10 says this, “for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” Now this can refer to a number of things. Some will say entering into God’s rest is what we do when we die. But to me, that’s almost like when people who work too much comically say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” We better take some time to rest before then.

No, I believe this scripture could be saying to us that we who are about the Father’s business had better learn to enter an occasional period of rest, just like the Father did. Why? Because otherwise, we won’t be able to carry on with the Father’s work. See, rest is more than just good advice, it’s a command from God and it was exemplified BY God.

Think about this. The same root word that gives us the term sabbath also gives us the word sabbatical. What’s a sabbatical? Well, that’s when a person takes some time away from their normal business or duties of life. Oh, you mean like a vacation? Not exactly, no. See, a vacation is something most people do with family. You go somewhere like a beach or whatever with the kids and enjoy some family time. Vacations are great, but that’s not a sabbatical.

The whole reason for taking a sabbatical is to do more than just relax and unwind. You also have to put aside all your obligations for a while so that you can recharge your batteries. You need to rejuvenate. Completely shut down for a time, just like when we sleep and our bodies get a chance to reset everything and refuel or take care of the areas that need attention. For a sabbatical, you usually need to be alone. And in our case, we need an extended period of time alone with God.

Are there other examples of rest being biblical? Yes, of course. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus proclaims, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Even Jesus Himself took a period of time alone with the Father on occasion. In fact, we read of Him doing just that on the night He would be betrayed. He urged his Disciples to be on watch as He went alone into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This account is found in Matthew 26, and it was a time when Jesus was literally taking the weight of the world’s sin on His shoulders.

For us, facing times of weakness or dryness in our spiritual lives can be quite the challenge. If you’re in a position of leadership, your responsibilities can weigh heavily on you. The need for a refreshing from heaven is real, and it’s critical that we recognize it and act accordingly. There’s no shame in taking some time to recharge, but we often tend to think that it’s just not possible to step away for any length of time. While we resist the enemy’s attempts to tell us to just give up, we often fear that taking time off might lead to quitting altogether. Or we fear that things may fall apart in our absence. Or perhaps people will think less of us if we take a break for a while. All these fears are irrelevant, but the devil will use them to stress us out even more.

But those times don’t have to break us. Remember, in 2nd Corinthians 13:9, it says, “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.” It is in our times of weakness that the strength of the Lord proves to be more than sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves the time to be alone with God and let Him rejuvenate us with resurrection power. So, yeah, a sabbatical to rest and recharge might just be the perfect answer.

-Break Transcript –

I’ve shared this before, but it’s appropriate for our topic. I’ve been in church all my life. I was a preacher’s son, and I have been involved in the church to some degree or another for decades. But in May of 2011, I was what you might call “at the end of my rope” spiritually. I was wearing a lot of “hats” and some of my duties were a drain on me. Being in charge of the church’s finances, for example, was particularly wearisome. I hated it. Keeping the books, writing checks, paying bills – yuck.

On top of this, the church itself was going through a time of turmoil. After a gut-wrenching leadership dispute, all but about 4 people had left our fellowship. I remember coming to church one Sunday morning and looking across the vacant sanctuary and feeling as empty as all those chairs. It seemed apparent to me that my time at that church was simply over. So I left.

After 40 years, I was without a church home for the first time in my life. I visited some other local churches, but I wasn’t feeling that sense of belonging. No matter where I went, I never felt like I quite fit in. I felt inside that I needed to immerse myself in God’s work somewhere, but I had become so spiritually fatigued that I couldn’t seem to plug myself in anywhere. It was so frustrating.

But I DID find that, by not having the time-consuming duties I’d had in the church previously, I finally had the free time to pursue some personal interests. Understand though, these were interests that God had planted within me. In June of 2011, I began my own online ministry by launching a series of Bible-based videos. That was the beginning of Great Commission Ministries and my first foray into hosting a web-series called “The GC.” Little did I know that God was up to something.

Without realizing it, I was entering an 8-month sabbatical. During that time, God was training me to do new things. He’d birthed in me an interest in producing videos, while also keeping me plugged into His Word. I began to study the scriptures like never before, and God just poured Himself into me. Even as I was deeply immersed in this new ministry, I didn’t yet realize the significance it would have. But I was ALL IN.

Another thing God had orchestrated during this time of my life was a connection to The Church at Chapel Hill. I was given the opportunity to attend an event there called “The Blue Experience,” which was a kind of seminar for people in leadership. There was a time of praise and worship at the start of the event, and my spirit desperately needed that. Because of this, and the fact that I hadn’t found another church home yet, I’d begun watching the Chapel Hill services online every Sunday morning. It was too far to drive there every week, so I’d plug my laptop into the big-screen TV and have church right there in my own living room. It was great!

Early in 2012, I was invited to a men’s breakfast by the new men’s group at my old church. Yes, they had managed to grow in my absence. On a Saturday morning, I went to the breakfast and listened as many of them voiced their excitement about all the things that were happening after the re-launch of the church. While I had been growing an online ministry, making videos and so forth, these guys had been rebuilding the ministry of a place I had left some 8 months prior. Good for them, I thought.

Then they began talking about some new things they were trying to get started. Someone mentioned something about a church bulletin. And in that moment, something clicked in my brain. All these months I had been making videos, and all these months I’d been streaming in the services from Chapel Hill. I’d seen how they had created announcement videos and played them prior to the Sunday morning service, and I began to think, Hey, I could do that. Before I knew it, I found myself pitching the idea of a video bulletin to these men. And they LOVED it! Next thing I know, I’m offering to head up this project for a church that I wasn’t even a part of anymore! WHAT?!

I go home afterwards, and I’m thinking about what had just happened. What did it mean? I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back to the same place I’d left, but it was also obvious that it wasn’t really the same place anymore. New people, new ideas, but was this the right move? I really had my doubts about it, and I needed God to give me some clear direction. As usual, God was WAY ahead of me.

The next morning, it’s Sunday, so I’m doing what had become my usual thing. I make a little breakfast and get settled in to watch the 9am service from The Church at Chapel Hill online. As always, it’s fantastic. The praise and worship starts, and there I am singing along and having a good ol’ time in my living room. Then Pastor Dave Devine steps up and begins preaching. I’m listening intently, as I always seem to get good stuff out of it. And then, something kinda peculiar happens. Pastor Dave stops right in the middle of the sermon, and he says, “You know, it’s great that we have the ability to stream these services online for those who maybe can’t be with us in person.” Then, looking right into the camera, he says, “But sometimes, you JUST NEED TO BE HERE.”

Honestly, I don’t remember anything he said after that. God had been working on me for 8 months, training me and teaching me, and He had orchestrated that little breakfast meeting the day before. Now, He had prepared my heart to hear a specific message. It was a message I heard loud and clear. As Pastor Dave spoke those words directly into the camera, what I heard was, “Stace, it’s time for you to get up out of that comfy chair and go back to church.” So I did. Yeah, I had church twice that morning. I returned to the church I’d left 8 months before, and I stayed there for another 10 years.

But here’s the real kicker. After going back, I ended up wearing more hats than I ever had before. The difference? I was loving every single thing that I did. God had taken me from burnout to boss-level servanthood. You may say, that’s contradictory. You can’t be a boss and a servant at the same time. Oh, but you can. It’s called servant leadership, and Jesus lived it out for us. But my point is that God led me from my emptiness into a time of refreshing and retraining. And when I came out on the other side of it, I discovered that He’d given me desires and abilities to serve Him in ways that I had previously not even imagined.

Now I’m facing a similar time in my life. After all those years serving in various capacities at that church, I recently reached yet another turning point. Feeling compelled to make a rather huge move from Georgia to Tennessee, here I am again staring at a future that is unknown to me. But knowing God’s stellar record of always being there to guide my steps when I faithfully pursue Him, I’m confident that He will again lead me into the next phase of my service to Him. And I couldn’t be more excited to learn what He has in store.

So if you’re hitting a wall in your spiritual walk, take comfort in knowing that God has a plan for you. That plan may include a needed respite – a sabbatical – a time of temporarily shedding the duties that bog you down and entering into God’s rest. Let Him guide you. Let Him teach you. And trust that whatever He has lined up next for you – it’s gonna be amazing! I’m just saying.

-End Transcript –

Author: stacemassengill

I am a blood-bought saint of God, saved by His amazing Grace! God called me to start Great Commission Ministries online in June of 2011, and that began as a video series called "The GC." After 7 seasons of that web-series, I felt led to expand the ministry to blogs as well as a new video series I called "67 seconds of Encouragement." Eventually, the blogs became a podcast. And the ministry continues to grow from that, currently in the form of The Kingdom Hero Show. My prayer is that this ministry brings hope and encouragement to everyone who finds it. Please share it with others and help spread the Good News of Christ!

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