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Burned Up or Burned Out

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Burned Up or Burned Out

I.                    Text: Psalms 55:4-8

II.                 Major Objective: Prepare my fellow seminary students for what lays ahead..

III.               Central Idea of the Text: Burn out is not God’s plan for the life of the Pastor.

IV.              Subject: Burn Out Protection

V.                 Thesis and Goal

a.       Proposition: God has called us to endure.

b.      Specific Objective: The conviction of the Holy Spirit to guide the pastors in avoiding Burn out.

VI.              Introduction

As I pondered what to speak on today Lance’s comment kept coming back to me.  Earlier in the semester Lance commented it will be harder to preach in the class room because preaching needs the movement of the Holy Spirit.  The first question I asked myself was, “Why can’t the Holy Spirit move right here?”  At first I thought this is nothing more than giving a speech, an introduction, three points, and a conclusion.  I’ve given a lot of speeches and received an “A” in my undergrad speech class.  Yet, some one posed to me the question, “If I am the last one to preach then what is it that God wants me to share with my colleagues?”  To begin I want half of you to sit on the right side of the room and half of you to sit on the left side of the room.  (People move to sit as requested)  I want you to look at each other.  If this room holds to current statistics half of us will not be in the ministry 5 years from now.  Statistics further state that of the pastors here that are married half of you will end up divorced.  These are shocking to say the least.  Here are some other statistics that come from Fuller Seminary, Focus on the Family, and George Barna, Inc.

a.       Statistics (Barna and Fuller Seminary Survey)

·         Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.

·         Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.

·         Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.

·         Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.

·         Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

·         Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.

·         Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.

·         Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons (This is Key).

Today I want to talk to you about burnout.  My sermon title is “Burn up or Burned out.”  There is an epidemic in our country and in our churches.  Ministers or leaving in droves and even though 7,000 new churches are planted every year 4,000 close their doors or merge with other churches.  Turn to Psalms 109.  As the psalms states, we are all in need of a new prospective, a new outlook.

b.      Psalms 109:22, 30, 31 For I am poor and needy; my heart is wounded within me.

Here we can see the psalmist has a wounded heart, he is poor, and he is needy, sounds a lot like our churches of today.  Probably every one of us knows a pastor that is calling out with just such a prayer.  But if you jump down to verses 30 and 31 the psalmist changes his viewpoint.

I will fervently thank the Lord with my mouth; I will praise Him in the presence of many. For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save him from those who would condemn him.  We are wounded and yet we are called to give praises to the Lord.  Our churches are wounded, our pastors are wounded, and our very members, and you know the ones I’m talking about, are wounded.  So much of your time is taken up dealing with these wounded members.  Western Seminary is now graduating more counselors than they are preachers.  We live in a wounded world.  Yet, this next passage, which is my key passage, truly speaks out almost to the point of a cry illustrating the wounds of our ministers.  At one time or another maybe you have breathed this prayer.

c.       Psalms 55:4-8 My heart shudders within me; terrors of death sweep over me.  Fear and trembling grip me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “If only I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and find rest. How far away I would flee; I would stay in the wilderness. Selah I would hurry to my shelter from the raging wind and the storm.”  Over 50% of the pastors surveyed said they would leave the ministry if they could find some other way to earn a living.  If God has truly called us to this endeavor then he has provided us the means to endure the process and take the gospel to a lost and dying world.  Today I will share three of those ways.

VII.            You are not yet mature in your faith.

a.      Philippians 3:10-12 My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

b.      You are going to make mistakes.  As we prepare to begin, some of us anyway, our final semester of seminary we may be feeling good about our performance in the many classes we have taken here.  Some of you here can remember some of the classes we took together.  Some of those experiences cause laughter, some cause tears, and some cause a sense of relief.  With a few exceptions none of us received perfect grades on semester research paper or on tests.  In fact some of our papers, oh the pain, looked like they were bleeding from all the red ink.  We have made mistakes along the way.  Life is about trying, making mistakes, growing from our mistakes, and moving forward.  That process will not stop after we leave here.  We will continue to make mistakes.  Paul stated in Phil. 3:12…Not that I am…already fully mature.  Paul is telling us he is not mature and neither are we.  Accept the fact we are going to make mistakes.  Yet, God urges us to endure.

c.       Many a ministry worker has sentenced themselves to a life long term in the Prison of Perfectionism.  Turn to the book of Genesis and let’s look in on an episode that many of us are familiar with.  Genesis 3:4-6 “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  I once had a colleague state, “There has been only one perfect man and they crucified him.”  In this episode we see the serpent convincing Eve if she ate of the forbidden fruit she would be like God.  If you are obsessed with everything being perfect you are a resident member of Eve’s Club.  For us to believe, and work, as if every thing must be perfect we are committing idolatry.  Only God is perfect.  Yet, God does want us to do our best, understanding there will always be room for improvement.  Don’t allow your desire for perfectionism to ruin your ministry.

VIII.         A private time with God is a necessity.

a.      Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there.

b.      If Christ needs that daily time in prayer with the father should we not also make that a regular part of our day?  One of the statistics I read was 70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.  Dustin, Tony, and Lance can relate to how a pastor’s life is very busy.  There are the meetings with deacons, trustees, committees, and the all important power brokers.  Let us not forget the counseling sessions that take place.  Then there are the administrative duties.  Pastor Langston told us in our class on Pastoral Ministries, administrative duties take up more time than any other duties a pastor has.  Then there are those pesky sermons that need to be written every week.  Some of those administrative duties can include hiring, firing, budget concerns, and the ever important bill paying.  If we are to endure the task of taking God’s Word to a lost and dying word we must have a time of Bible study, prayer, and possibly even journal writing.  The passage from the Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus got up early to go to a secluded place and there he prayed.  We must have a time in our lives where we do the same.  Maybe you are not an early morning person.  I know I am not.  In fact, if it has to take place before 10 o’clock in the morning it takes a special effort on my part.  We might be one for taking an extended lunch and make our devotion time a mid day exercise.  I must admit I’ve tried that late at night effort and I just end up falling asleep.  It really doesn’t matter when our daily devotion time is just so long as it happens.  In addition, an annual retreat away from telephones, families, and church duties should also be a time when we can take our devotion time to that next level.  If we are to endure we must have a consistent time when we get along with God. 

IX.              Find a mentor you can be open and honest with.

a.       Proverbs 12:15 A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.

b.      Proverbs 19:20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life.

c.       Find a mentor or group you can be open and honest with.  There is such a need for pastors to have someone they can share their hurt with.  Today there are many options for the pastor suffering from the wounded heart.  First, there is the option of a mentor.  Find someone, maybe an older pastor you could confide in.  Look for someone who has many years of the pastorate, possibly a retired pastor.  Second, consider a group of pastors that come together for support.  If there isn’t one in your town start one.  Third, if neither of these is available try a non-profit organization that exists just for this ministry such as or Life-Line for Pastors.  In addition, there is a source within the SBC for such a need.  Let’s face it, being a pastor is some of the hardest work anyone can do.  You are not going to be able to endure on your own.

X.                 Conclusion

Today we have looked at the large number of casualties from the ministry.  First, over 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month, every month, every month.  Over 50 percent of the pastors in service today will end up being divorced, and 80% of those leaving seminary will leave the ministry within 5 years. 

Next, this was never God’s intention for the ministry.  God’s Word has shown three things we can do to avoid burn out.  By no means have we covered all the possibilities.  But these are three helps to avoid burnout.  First, understand you are growing and you will make mistakes along the way.  Learn from these and don’t sentence yourself to the Prison of Perfectionism. Second, take time out for a quiet time with God.  You are not going to endure this journey on your own.  Through our time with God we can gain a source of strength, peace, and endurance.  Third, find a mentor, other pastors, or burn out assist organizations that are out there to assist you in your journey.

Pastoring is the hardest job you will ever do.  We are taking on the powers of darkness.  If you attempt to use the tools of the physical world to fight the spiritual world you are going to loose.  Ephesians 6:10-12 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.


Finally allow me to close with these words from Jesus, our ultimate mentor, advisor, and intercessor, “…I will never leave you or forsake you.”

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