Moses had it. Elisha had it. Jesus had it. They all had moments in their ministry where the burden of leadership seemed too great. They saw what God called them to and saw the impossibility of it. We do it in ministry too. The family that’s barely holding it together and only you know how close they are to the brink. The student who wants to believe but just can’t seem to fully give Jesus everything. The leader who is struggling with an inner battle.
As a Christian it’s our calling to sit down and enter into the pain and brokenness of other people’s lives. We pour out our lives and sometimes we pour too much of ourselves. We are left empty, tired and burned out. In the midst of these times there are three truths that you should take in to protect you from emptying yourself too much.
Jesus is the Savior, not you.
I’m pretty sure that no one would argue this theologically, but practically we deny this all the time. In pastoral ministry we start to believe that spiritual growth is all up to us. We do this when we say “yes” to meeting with more people than you can handle. We deny this truth when we can’t let a phone call or text wait until the next day. Jesus was doing pretty fine without me before I got here and He’ll do fine when I’m gone. Think about this. God never tires, do you? God won’t give up, will you? God is immortal, are you?
It is a blow to our ego to know that we are not the center of our ministry, but it’s the truth and this truth will set you free. When you free yourself from being Savior, then you are less likely to have your heart rise and fall with your ministry successes and failures. We are protected from pride. When a student accepts Christ, it’s not because we presented the Gospel in the right way. We are freed from guilt. When a student you’ve been pouring into messes up, it’s not because we failed them.
You aren’t alone.
It’s easy in ministry to feel like you’re the only one keeping the ship afloat. We see our own hard work and feel that if it weren’t for you the whole church would fall a part. The truth is that God is working through more people than you. Elijah, after the victory on Mount Carmel, received a death threat from Jezebel. Elijah complained to God saying that if he died, no one would be left to stand up against Ahab and Jezebel. God responded by telling Elijah that he had reserved 7,000 other prophets who had not bowed to Baal. In other words, “Elijah, this isn’t all about you. I’m working all over the place through many other people.”
The question for us is, “How do you release your ministry to other people so that your burden is shared with other people?” If you are keeping it all to yourself. You are not doing ministry the right way.
It’s not selfish to care for yourself.
There is a horrible belief in the church that caring for yourself is selfish and therefore wrong. If we even think about doing something for the betterment of our souls then that means we are putting ourselves above other people. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even Jesus took time to tend to his own soul. When pressed by the burdens of ministry, Jesus went away to spend time in communion with His Father. One could argue that Jesus would have spent His time better if He would have healed more people or taught more truth. That’s how we operate a lot of the time. But Jesus knew that His joy and strength came from time with the Father. Without that His ministry would have no power.
I’ve certainly struggled with this over the years and need constant reminder that caring for my own soul is not an act of selfishness, it’s an act of love. If I tend to my own soul I will have a longer ministry and be able to bless more people in the long run.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]