How do you feel right now? How do you feel about God? Has He let you down? Are you disappointed with His faithfulness? Were you expecting Him to come through for you and He seemed very absent? Is there a growing resentment about the manner in which God has blessed you or failed to bless you?
Are you getting disillusioned with the congregation? Do you feel there is far too big a gap between the Bible and the life most in the church are living? Does it seem your sermons are changing no one? Are you tired of preaching and seeing no evidence of it working? Do you see many in the congregation still living rather empty religious lives, and your job is to give them a weekly pump-up or pep rally?
Are the board meetings too much to take anymore? Are the internal politics of the congregation and the power struggles finally making so little sense you wonder why you are staying in the ministry?
Are you disillusioned with the denominational leaders you once looked up to? Do they seem stuck in the same old box, while you have had your eyes opened to better understandings? Are you watching the young people drift away, and when you jump on the band wagon with new ideas and approaches to appeal to the next generation - you only get persecuted by your church and denomination?
Do you find a growing cynicism in your heart? When you are around super-zealous people or other ministry leaders do you sometimes think they are kidding themselves? Are you sick of all the masks people in the church can wear - including yourself?
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? A tired, worn-out person that is aging before his/her time? Eyes filled with sadness and a growing despair? Perhaps even anger and disgust?
Are you muttering things under your breath that are negative and sarcastic? Is it hard to keep going because it seems Christianity simply doesn’t work?
You are not alone, my friend. Not only are huge numbers of leaders dropping out, but lay members as well are deserting the church in large numbers. In the mid-90’s while I was still pastoring in Canada an article was published across the nation in numerous newspapers about the end of the age coming through attrition rather than Armageddon. At that point in time, if the church drop-out rate continued at the same rate, and church growth didn’t pick up, the body of Christ would become extinct in Canada by a certain year in the future. I don’t really think it would happen, but it was a sobering trend presented to the entire nation.
A good friend of mine, Malcolm Smith of Unconditional Love Ministries, had the opportunity way back in the 1960’s to speak in the very churches where the Welsh Revival started in 1904. He came away from the experience feeling empty and sad. One church in particular, the very church Evan Roberts had prayed in the night the revival erupted, was very sobering for Malcolm. If there had been no plaque on the wall explaining the fact the revival had started in this church, Malcolm said, you would never have known. The spiritual climate in the church sixty years after the great flow of the Holy Spirit was near zero. Some of the elderly members who had been there in 1904 shared the story of that incredible night with Evan Roberts. Malcolm Smith called these dear people “tour guides in a spiritual museum!”
Individuals burn out, entire congregations become lifeless. It happens, on the individual level, and on the congregational level. Let me ask you one more question. When all the shouting is finished, and all the amens are said, what is it you truly believe? What do you truly feel in your gut? That’s the bottom line. That is what will take you closer to the Lord Jesus, or further down the road to burnout.
If you are answering yes to a lot of the questions in this article, then indeed, spiritual burnout is a growing part of your life and ministry.
We urge you to call us and chat with friends who know how you feel. Please check this web site for resources periodically, and read the articles on this web site for more help. Should you choose to resign and step out of full-time service there are a number of unsettling things that will happen to you, and we want to help you through those challenges. The journey out of spiritual burn-out can take many roads but the real purpose is to end up closer to Jesus and the Father, filled with the Holy Spirit and living a purposeful Christian life despite the criticisms and human conclusions all around us. You can survive, and you can fulfill the purpose God ordained for you. He is still the Author and Finisher of our faith. Though we may be tired and weary He is still the Almighty God. Don’t give up and don’t try to survive on your own. We are called into a fellowship to help each other when pressure is too great. Jesus really does love you and He is sending others to come alongside you in your time of need.