My Ongoing Need of the Gospel
In August of this year, I will have lead Servants of Grace for seventeen years. Let me be honest with you dear ministry leader friend; I have often wanted to give up. I’ve wanted to say enough is enough. Enough of email, producing content in a variety of forms, dealing with difficult people, and responding to critics. Then I remember the great privilege it is to be in ministry of any kind. I remember in these moments what Jesus has done for me as well as all He continues to do for me on a daily basis.
Tim Keller has rightly said that the gospel is the A to Z of Christianity. The more we grow in the gospel, the more we grow in our knowledge of the Bible. The Bible helps give us gospel categories from the front of the Book of Genesis to the last page in Revelation, and everywhere in-between that testifies to the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Accountability and Limitations
When I get tired, grumpy, crabby, or I just feel downright awful, I know it’s time to take a break from what I’m doing. For the past few years now, I’ve sought (not perfectly mind you) to turn off my laptop at or around 5 pm. This has forced me to get done whatever I need to get done by then. Rather than working myself into the ground, I’ve finally learned that I have limitations.
Acknowledging those limitations involves resting before I fall asleep for the night by reading some books, and spending time with my wife. It also means getting things done around the house or even helping my wife make dinner as I have now for the past few years. Being intentional and proactive about one’s spiritual growth is essential in fighting against burnout. Fighting against burnout is not only a spiritual growth issue it is also a mental and emotional health issue. This is why we need accountability centered on the gospel and have close godly friends who care for and hold us accountable.
How Godly Friends Have Helped Me and Can Help You
In the past few years, I’ve come to be increasingly thankful for the encouragement from godly friends. To this end, the Lord has placed two godly seasoned men in the faith in my life that live in my area. They have helped me tremendously. During our times together, I can share my heart and struggles openly with them, and they pray for me and point me to Jesus. At times, I’ll be honest, they correct me in love and instruct me. Their love, care, support, and prayers mean a great deal to me. In ministry, we need these types of friendship. There is no way we can last one day in ministry without the gospel and without having gospel-centered friendships.
You must be proactive in your fight against burnout. Burnout will come if you don’t plan against it. In my experience, even with accountability and lots of friends around me I still fight burnout more than I care to admit. Ministry is hard and messy and requires a great deal of patience, gentleness, and speaking the truth in love. We need wisdom from God. We also need godly people speaking God’s grace into our lives.
Taking Our Study of God’s Word to Heart
As ministry leaders, we need to take our spiritual growth as seriously as we want others to take it. This means we need to be in our Bible’s each day, in prayer and growing in the areas the Lord is addressing in our hearts and lives. This isn’t a legalistic check off your spiritual duty either. If you are not enjoying your spiritual disciplines, you are in the danger zone and need to tell your accountability partner(s) immediately.
We desperately need to come under conviction from our messages as we prepare them before we ever expect people to be convicted by the Holy Spirit through our Bible study, Sunday school, or sermon we’re going to deliver. By taking stock of our spiritual growth, our aim is to lead our families first by God’s grace, before we lead the family of God. As men, we’re called to shepherd our wives and children (if we have them) to Jesus. Our ministry in our homes affords us the opportunity to minister to the family of God.
For some of you, you need to be reminded of the gospel. For others, you need to be warned not to work too hard. I’m one who needs both reminders. My father was a workaholic who worked sixty or more hours a week. Your struggle might be with guilt when you don’t get your to-do list done each day. You may also struggle with not being able to help every person.
Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses in our ministries. Every Christian has a faithful God who always delivers on all of His promises. We have a great need of Him and also of other godly seasoned saints to speak into our lives. We weren’t meant to do ministry alone. Instead, we have godly saints in our churches, in our communities, and in our cities that the Lord has sent there to do life with us. We need to make use of the means and resources the Lord has given to us. We also need to connect weekly with the Body of Christ for the sake of accountability and friendship so that we can fight against burnout and grow in God’s grace ourselves.