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This site is edited by John Woodward M.Div., D.Min, who serves as Director of Counseling and Training at Grace Fellowship International in Pigeon Forge, TN

Avoiding Pastoral Burnout

Barna has been publishing the results of their research on The State of Pastors. They examined how many pastors are at risk of burnout, relational breakdown or spiritual problems.

Burnout & Breakdown: Barna’s Risk Metric for Pastors

Dr. Archibald Hart wrote on the challenges of burnout and stress...their similarities and differences. For example,

  • Burnout is a defense mechanism characterized by disengagement. Stress is characterized by over engagement.
  • In burnout, the emotions become shut down. In stress, the emotions become overactive.
  • Burnout can best be understood as a loss of ideals and hope. Stress can best be understood as a loss of fuel and momentum.
  • Burnout may never kill you, but your long life may not seem worth living. Stress may kill you permanently and you won’t have enough time to finish what you started.[1]

Spiritual renewal can provide love, forgiveness, wisdom and strength to avoid burnout. A devotional writer observed,

“Our Father is going to teach us, mainly through personal failure, that the life we live is the life of our Lord Jesus alone. The Christian life is not our living a life like Christ, or our trying to be Christ-like, nor is it Christ giving us the power to live a life like His; but it is Christ Himself living His own life through us; ‘no longer I, but Christ.’“

“The end of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection was to prepare and form a holy nature and frame for us in Himself, to be communicated to us by union and fellowship with Him; and not to be able to produce in ourselves the first originals of such a holy nature by our own endeavors.”

“The believer’s true education is in the growth of Christ within. The Church’s real ministry is not multitudinous public services, so-called, but the forming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the lives of His people; the reproduction of Christ; epistles made alive by the Holy Spirit, to be seen and read of all men.” -C.A.F.

Mark McKeehan, Executive Director of Grace Fellowship International, is reaching out to pastors, offering encouragement, mentoring and grace-based resources. You are welcome to contact him: mark@gracefellowshipinternational.com


[1] Excerpted from Coping with Depression in the Ministry and Other Helping Professions. New York, NY: W. Publishing Group, 1984 (cited in Lifeline to Hope Training Manual, Hope for the Heart).

Body Life Through Christ

Miles Stanford observed, “One hears much today about body life, with its emphasis upon New Testament gathering, rather than Christ-centered growth. The Body is meant to manifest the Head, and that necessitates spiritual members.”

T. Austin-Sparks counseled pastors,

Where there is no Cross there is no life, and no ministry of life. The object of suffering is that there may be a full and abundant ministry. . . . We are not to invite trouble, nor by austerity to ill-treat our bodies. The Holy Spirit Himself takes responsibility for our experience, leading us in paths where we encounter, in body, heart, or spirit, that measure of ‘the dying of Jesus’ that will mean enrichment of our ministry.

There are many today who seem to think that it is all or largely a matter of the order, technique, and form, and if we are to return to the ‘New Testament’ form or order of churches all would be well. The fact is that, while certain things characterize the N.T. churches, the Word does not give us a complete pattern according to which churches are to be formed!

There is no blueprint for churches in the N.T., and to try to form such churches is only to create another system which may be as legal, sectarian and dead as others. Churches, like the Church, are organisms which spring out of life, which life itself springs out of the Cross of Christ wrought into the very being of believers. Unless believers are crucified people, there can be no true expression of the Church.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23; cf Gal. 2:20).

(See the free online publications of T.A.S. at www.Austin-sparks.net )

The Message of Galatians for Today

One of the main causes of lukewarm pastorates and churches is the attempt progress in sanctification by self-effort.

Although it is obvious that the epistle to the Galatians refutes the heresy that the works of the Mosaic law are necessary to become a child of God (Gal 1:6-9; 3:23-29), it is not as apparent that it also teaches sanctification by grace through faith, enabled by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:20,21;3:1-3; 5:56,22,23). This latter aspect of the gospel is vital and liberating.

This discovery led to the development of The Sonship Course by Dr. Jack Miller of Serge Ministries.

But preaching Galatians verse by verse can come across as culturally remote and merely academic. For a sermon series that unpacks the message of Galatians with an exemplary blend of exposition, illustration and application, see the “Be Free” series preached by the pastors at Bayside Chapel in Barnegat, New Jersey. www.Baysidechapel.org

Pietism’s Timeless Testimony

Philipp Jakob Spener, (1635-1705), was a German theologian, author, and a leading figure in German Pietism, a movement among 17th- and 18th-century Protestants. He stressed personal improvement and upright conduct as the most important manifestations of Christian faith.

Spener’s major work was Pia Desideria (1675; “Pious Desires”). That work outlined Pietism’s basic program and earned Spener a reputation throughout Germany as the spokesman for the movement.

The third section comprises the six proposals for correcting conditions within the church. These six, in abbreviated form, are:

  1. That “thought should be given to a more extensive use of the word of God among us.”
  2. That there be “the establishment and diligent exercise of the spiritual priesthood.”
  3. That “the people must have impressed upon them and must accustom themselves to believing that it is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice.”
  4. That “we must beware how we conduct ourselves in religious controversies with unbelievers and heretics …. We must remind ourselves of our duty to the erring.
  5. That both integrity of life and sound education which includes spiritual development be considered necessary when calling persons to be pastors.
  6. That sermons be so prepared by all that their purpose (faith and its fruits) may be achieved in the hearers to the greatest possible degree.”

Whatever one’s denominational background, these principles are vital for church renewal. Baptist scholar, Alvin Reid, gives a summary of relevant lessons in this video.

Sources:

Encyclopaedia Britannica
pietisten.org/iii/3/spener.html
Christianity Today, “Philipp Jakob Spener” (Apr 26, 2019).
Malcom McDow and Alvin Reid, Firefall 2.0: How God has Shaped History Through Revivals

All Sufficient Grace

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).


Ten thousand enemies cannot stop a Christian, cannot even slow him down, if he meets them in an attitude of complete trust in God.  They will become to him like the atmosphere that resists the airplane, but which because the plane’s designer knew how to take advantage of that resistance, actually lifts the plane aloft and holds it there for a journey of 2,000 miles.  What would have been an enemy to the plane becomes a helpful servant to aid it on its way …If this should seem like a bit of theorizing, remember that always the greatest Christians have come out of hard times and tough situations. 

Tribulations actually worked for their spiritual perfection in that they taught them to trust not in themselves but in the Lord who raised the dead.  They learned that the enemy could not block their progress unless they surrendered to the urgings of the flesh and begin to complain.  And slowly, they learned to stop complaining and start praising.  It is that simple — and it works. 

Lord, I pray for Your grace to work within me that I might allow the trials to lift me aloft rather than press me down.  Amen.

Tozer on Christian Leadership: A 366-Day Devotional, Complied by Ron Eggert, Christian Publications, Inc., 2001; December 9

A Seminary Professor Finds Peace

In his book, They Found the Secret (Zondervan), former Chancellor of Wheaton College, Dr. V. Raymond Edmond, noticed a pattern in the lives of 20 Christian leaders. After their wholehearted commitment to God (Romans 12:1,2), their came a season of weariness– an awareness of their inability to live victoriously. Then there was a grace awakening related to their union with Christ that gave them increased peace, joy, and fruitfulness.

Dr. John Best, had a similar breakthrough while teaching New Testament Greek at Dallas Seminary. He recounts his spiritual journey in this video. His testimony and others are in the book, Exchanged Lives! (available on Amazon Kindle as an ebook).

The Risk of Ministry Burnout

The Risk of Ministry Burnout: How to Survive and Thrive by God’s Grace

was the topic of a recent webinar hosted by Grace Fellowship International.

Pastor Bob Galasso testified of how he and his wife, Joan, experienced burnout, but also went through a process of rest, discovery, renewal. This opened the door for a new season of encouraging others through Alive in Christ Ministries. Bob is the author of ‘Stones Of Remembrance’, and ‘A Leap of Faith’ (available on Amazon.com). He can be reached at delightedbyjoy@yahoo.com

Journey into Intimacy

By Bill Loveless

A new phase of my spiritual journey began when the COVID virus shut down this country in March, 2020, (we will never forget that event, will we!). By the time that occurred, I had already made four out-of-state trips since January and had seven more trips planned through August. 

I had just returned from Memphis, TN when COVID stopped all my travel plans. I was very disappointed because I had some great trips planned to a number of churches. Little did I know that I was about to discover what I believe for me personally is the “pearl of great value” that Jesus talked about in Matthew 13:46. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic for me to discover it. 

Since I now had time on my hands, I began spending more time with the Lord. One morning when I was being still before the Lord, He sent this thought rolling across my mind that I knew was from the Him. He said, “Bill, when you get to heaven, I don’t want to hear these words, ‘Oh, so this is what intimacy is all about.’” 

Those words impacted me like a baseball bat across my face. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much of a divine wake-up call this was! The Lord was revealing to me that there was another part of my spiritual journey that I had yet to discover. 

One morning, I was reading a book that quoted Psalm 27:8 which says: 

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.” Psalm 27:8 

Even though I had read this verse many times, this time I realized God was speaking to me personally. As I meditated on this verse, the Lord put these thoughts into my mind, “Bill, I want you to seek My face which means to seek Me for who I am, not for what I can do for you.” 

I must be honest with you. Before then I had never sought God for who He was. Don’t get me wrong. I would praise and thank Him for being God but it was always based on what He could do for me, for someone else or in some circumstance. I realized in that moment that God was calling me to know His heart. This revelation is what began my new journey to become a man after God’s own heart. 

While my journey is unique to me, I am convinced that God is constantly inviting each of us into a deeper personal relationship with Him. I pray that as I share my journey, it will encourage you to step onto the path of your own deeper journey with God. 

___________________________

This post is from Bill’s new book, After God’s Heart (pages 5,6) which is available in print, audio, or as a free PDF download at his ministry: www.christislifeministries.com/

Warning and Solution

by Dr. Lewis Gregory

THE WORD IS: “You therefore, beloved, seeing you know these things before, beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.  But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory both now and for ever.  Amen.” 2 Peter 3:17-18

THE POINT IS: Warning signs are everywhere. We need to know what the danger is, where it is, and how to avoid it. The Apostle Peter wrote 2 letters to prepare Christians for living in troubled times. He concluded his second letter by summarizing the main points. Peter gave a caution and a cure. The caution, beware! The cure, keep on growing in the Lord! The caution: beware of deceitful workers, false prophets, and false teaching. Don’t follow the bad leadership of the wicked—those lawless people who live an unbridled life, contrary to the nature and character of God. Such people are more attuned to the word of earthly leaders than to the Word of God. Therefore, they adhere to the doctrines and traditions of men, often using Scripture as a proof text. But such practices are not in accordance with the character of God, much less in keeping with the whole counsel of the Word of God. This does not honor God nor benefit humanity, regardless of how morally upright or religiously precise it appears to be.  

THE APPLICATION IS: Thanks to God you’ve been duly warned, not only by the Apostle Peter, but also by the Apostle Paul, and even by the Lord Jesus Himself. The warning is clear: beware and keep on growing! It’s much like riding a bicycle. You must keep moving forward or you’ll fall down. The same thing is true in your Christian walk. Just as your physical muscles must be continually exercised by proper use, your spiritual senses must be exercised. Otherwise, you will become easily shaken, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (false teaching). 

The antidote to this kind of deception is spiritual perception. As you grow spiritually, your spiritual senses will be kept sharp and alert. Then you will be spiritually perceptive: able to discern between good and evil. Therefore, you must continue to grow spiritually by growing in the grace and knowledge of your Lord Jesus Christ. Spiritual growth has two components: you must grow in the grace of the Lord and in the knowledge of the Lord. True spiritual growth is only possible by the grace of God, which means God must do the work! He will work in you and through you by enlightening you, enabling you, and empowering you in your daily life. But in order to grow in the Lord, you must also know the Lord. It is not enough to know about the Lord Jesus Christ, you must know Him—personally, intimately, and experientially in the practical details of everyday life. As you begin to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, then God will be glorified in your life!
 
THE PRAYER: “Oh Lord, there is so much false information and everyone has an opinion. I feel like I am being pulled in many directions. But You, Lord Jesus, are the Truth. Your warning is clear: beware of falsehood. Cause me to grow in grace and the knowledge of You, so that I can know the difference between truth and error. Then, I will be able to remain steadfast in the truth.”

Courtesy of https://www.sourceministries.net/