I am reading this book: Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic (Zondervan 2009) right now (which is pretty good and if you’re in ministry and tired, you should get it too – it will help). Burn out can affect our whole being and life: spiritual, emotional, physical, even relational health. Throughout the book the author has short little interviews with pastors from around the country who have burned out (or came awful close to it) and survived to tell about it (or even in some cases, lived to tell about it, literally). In the section about getting back to Spiritual health, she interviews a pastor in Texas named Matt Carter.
A.J.: Do you see the current Western church as being ineffective in reaching people with the gospel and growing them? why?
M.C.: Pastor Bob Roberts asked the question in a recent book, “If we (the church) could plant one thousand mega-churches all over the United States over the next ten years, wouldn’t we be able to completely change this country for the cause of Christ? The answer Pastor Roberts reached was, “No.” Why? Because that is exactly what the church in the United States did over the last ten years. We planted over one thousand churches that have grown to more than two thousand members apiece; and yet, per capita, there are fewer people going to church today than ever before in the history of our country. Something is terribly wrong.
Why is this occurring? I think there are several reasons, but I’m personally convinced that one of the main reasons people in America are leaving the church in droves is because there is severe biblical malnourishment in the body of Christ. They are leaving in droves not because we aren’t clever enough, not because we don’t have enough resources, but because people come to church, are entertained, and the leave starving, anemic, and utterly ineffective for the kingdom of God. I believe this is a direct result of pastors not fulfilling primary responsibilities God designed for them through Scripture (130).
Here is the part I wanted to get to but felt I had to include the above for this to make better sense.
A.J.: What do you see as the primary responsibilities of pastors and church leaders?
M.C.: In Scripture, we see two primary responsibilities of the pastor: servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Men ought to regard us [pastors] as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful’ (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). Unfortunately, so many pastors view themselves first and foremost not as servants of Christ, not at those responsible for stewarding the deep things of God to their people, but rather as servants of the church! I grew up in a church that expected the pastor to be available to meet the every whim and need of every congregant. If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available! If someone was in the hospital, he better go! If someone needed to meet with him, he better be available! If he spent too much time on his sermon rather than with the people, it was said of him that he was “a good preacher” but “not a good pastor.” Although hospital visitations, meetings, and coffee times with the church are important, Scripture reveals that they are not the pastor’s primary responsibilities. Being a servant of Christ and a steward of the deep things of God are (130-131).
In view of Mark’s post the other day, perhaps not just pastors and leaders, but Christians in general are burning out of church and or ministry because there is first malnourishment in the pulpit (though not in all cases) and second, because there is confusion and perhaps conflation of roles and responsibilities within the congregation?
If pastors are doing everything or more than they should, they will burn out, fast. And it seems, that burn out is not limited to just pastors. Even the rest of the folk can burn out when trying to do too much or when they function outside of their proper or spiritually gifted roles within the body (and when they are not taking care of themselves adequately).
Finally, any thoughts about the pastor’s primary role being servants of Christ first and foremost (not servants of the church) and then as stewards of the mysteries (the deep things) of God?