Not too long ago, I talked to a pastor/friend who serves a very large ministry. He is in his late thirties, married and has three kids, and has climbed the influence ladder, because his ministry is pulling in thousands of teenagers from all over his city and the country. He gets calls to speak at leadership conferences for church growth gurus-in-the-making. His salary is easily six figures. He is on a pedestal, as he trains others on how they can repeat his success in their ministry. He just admitted to me that he has not been out of bed for seven days because of depression. When Moses saw the burning bush, it was aflame but not consumed. It was because the oil of the Spirit of God burned and not it’s flesh…
It’s the same with busy, successful humans.
I can relate to him. I know what it is like to try to keep a facade up that makes me appear perfectly together in front of others. It is especially difficult in front of those that I feel look to me for inspiration. It was at the fifteen-year anniversary of ministry that I simply became an empty vessel. I gave into pushing all of the “god-buttons” to appear to have an effective ministry, knowing that inside I was toast. Totally burnt with no devotional life or passion for the presence of God to rule my spirit. The intimacy was gone. Only after my career airplane crashed internally that I realized that I don’t have to perform for anybody. The truth is that people desire a “realness” and rawness from leadership today. As God has detoxed me from the performance trap, I began to notice that people actually would say to me, “Thank God you quit acting like a know-it-all guru! We learn so much more when you are just the Brady we know and love!”
My friend, lying in bed with a TV on in the background, told me that he had let everyone down. He is done. He can’t cut the mustard anymore. God is a million miles away from him, and he can’t fake it anymore. I asked him, “When was the last time you sat down to let God pour into your life?” He gave me the same silly answer that many give when they are hiding personal burnout, “Oh! Everyday.”
My only statement to him, because I relate to him and to where he is at the moment, was this, “Jesus Christ died for the church, you don’t have to do it also.” Doing work for God but without God destroys the work of God in one’s life. My friend desperately needs a continued personal solitude. He needs soul rest on a regular basis, but the importance of his calling overshadowed his true call, to simply know Jesus. Life is so much better when the oil of God burns on you and not your flesh.
Life goes nuts when the control of space, people and things become our sole priority. Nothing is more amazing and useful than power, but nothing is more scary. Humans are so good at filling space with things. Things like cars and houses, but also other things like busyness. Where we fail is in the area of “time.” We know what to do with space, but we don’t know what to do with our time. Since we cannot control time, we put our energies on the space of our lives and neglect time. It is impossible for anybody to ignore the problem of time.
It is easier to settle for average, than take time for achievement.
It is easier to be saturated with complacency, than to take time to be stirred with compassion.
It is easier to be skeptical, than to take time to see potential.
It is easier to blame the clock, than to embrace a moment in time.
If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it jumps out. However, if you put a frog in water that is room temperature and heat it slowly, he stays there until he boils to death. Put the frog in a lethal environment, and he escapes. Yet, introduce the danger gradually, and he never notices. When the call of your life becomes less than to know God in simple devotion, trouble is always around the corner. Burnout is inevitable.
Year ago, I heard pastor John Ortberg say, “you must ruthlessly eliminate “hurry” out of your life.” The truth is that the dangers to which you and I are most vulnerable are generally not the sudden, obvious ones. They are the ones that creep up on us. When they become a fixture, we don’t even notice.