Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Piper on pastoral burnout

John Piper posted a journal entry from his early days in ministry, back in 1986: How I Almost Quit. It was a time when he was frustrated and unsure about his ministry....

Are you so discouraged you don’t know what to do next? I want to help you get through this. Maybe this will help.

The following quote is from my journal dated November 6, 1986. I had been at Bethlehem 6 years. If you have ever felt like this, remember this is 24 years ago and I am still here.

The point is: Beware of giving up too soon. Our emotions are not reliable guides.

What follows are the writings of a pretty discouraged brother. The point is not to give up or give in, because you never know what might happen or how God is going to use you.

I intend no disrespect to John Piper. His heart is in the right place. Here is what makes me nervous about that. A lot of pastors might read that and be encouraged for the wrong reason. See, 24 years ago Piper was discouraged and almost "quit" and look at him now! He is one of the most famous pastors out there with a worldwide ministry, a huge church in multiple locations and is one of the (if not the) most sought after conference speakers out there. He pumps out book after book and is in many ways the face of the resurgent Reformed movement in America. So if it works for Piper, why not me!

The reality is that the last 24 years for John Piper are not typical for most ministers. A frustrated 30 something pastor shouldn’t look at John Piper’s journal and think that he has hopes to someday see a ministry like that. I guess it is possible but probably not. For most vocational ministers, the future doesn’t hold keynote addresses at theology conferences or perennial status among the bestselling Christian authors. It is more of the same that is currently frustrating them.

If you are a vocational minister and are burnt out, don't keep pressing forward in the hopes of being a world famous pastor. Keep pressing on knowing that you likely won't and that in spite of that you want to keep doing what you are doing. I would add that if you are burnt out and frustrated, the solution is to let go. Let go of the ministry of the local church. Let others, expect others, to step up and serve each other and you. There may be mistakes, there may be clumsy moments. It will almost certainly not be neat and tidy, definitely it will not be professional and polished. But it will involve the whole church and it will lift the load that one man was never intended to bear.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One man-band pastoring is structural heresy! Exodus 18 esp vv 13-26 applies. Surely Jethro was one of the first management consultants! But note v 27! 2 Tim 2:2 confirms Ex 18 v. 21. This supports the NT model namely a plurality of leadership with several elders supported by deacons. Acts, Timothy and Titus apply. In addition wise delegation of matters to Home-groups/Cells relieves the load; this also develops people in line with their Holy Spirit gifts/offices, which God gives as he chooses. Bill Hybel's books on Volunteers, and also "Axiom" reinforce the message. HTH