I hear about it all the time. Another pastor has fallen because of an ethical or moral violation. Or worse, we read about it in the morning paper. Or hear it on the evening news. We wonder what happened, but honestly, every other pastor knows what happened. The demands of ministry don’t let up. The pressure is relentless and constant. There is always one more phone call to make, one more hospital to visit, one more critic, and one more sermon to prepare, etc. Running on empty, a pastor can experience a fatal attraction, then make a fatal decision…. “just this once”… and a ministry is lost.
Ministers don’t explode. You never hear of a pastor going postal and shooting up a congregation. Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes so great that they’re crushed like an empty soda can. Ministry, however you express it, is giving yourself away…. all the time. Unless pastors are intentional to refill their souls, they soon get to the place where they have nothing left to give.
Here’s how to prevent imploding:
1. Maintain a habit of prayer. I know this sounds out-of-date, but maintaining a habit of prayer is essential. It keeps us closer to God and provides strength. When we become overcommitted, we think we can simply skip prayer and run off to do our ministry. We shouldn’t.
2. Keep a Sabbath (rest). The Sabbath was created for man so that he would have a day of rest. No one works well when they’re fatigued. That means we have to be intentional about recharging our souls.
3. Have friends, real ones. Of the twelve disciples, Jesus had an inner circle of three: Peter, James, and John. He often pulled them off to the side for deeper conversations. Jesus also seems to have enjoyed staying with His friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Too many times we allow our ministries to isolate us from the close friends that make life bearable.
Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. Too many people flame out after a few years. The average stay for pastors is twenty-four months in the typical church. I’ve been at PCC for almost fifteen, because I have disciplined myself for the long haul. Paying attention to my personal discipleship, physical and spiritual rest, and supporting relationships has gone a long way to keep me in the race.