Are you “burned-out” from ministry?

People-trouble is wearying indeed. It’s easy to grow cold and sarcastic about those particularly difficult people whose afflictions are largely self-induced. When a man takes the role of spiritual leader and comes in with selfish expectations, swift discouragement results when those expectations aren’t met. The church today calls it “burnout,” but in many cases it’s a simple matter of wanting ministry to function a certain way and resenting it when it doesn’t. Habitual cynics don’t make good shepherds. I pray for individuals who look at the church and see, not whiners and complainers to be avoided, but broken lives and needy souls who’ve been purchased by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). Hopeful optimism in ministry is like fresh water in the desert: People’s thirst for the tender care of a shepherd is fully satisfied.[1]

[1] Jerry Wragg, Exemplary Spiritual Leadership,130.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Greg Smith on March 24, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    I agree with the general thrust of this argument. That’s what a shepherd is for. He ministers the grace of God to broken and needy people. But the people that make me weary are the ones who have the same problem that they never get over. It doesn’t seem to matter how long you minister to them or how many different approaches you take; they never exercise the maturity to take responsibility for their situation. It’s always someone else’s fault. My husband isn’t trying hard enough. My wife won’t change. There is always an excuse and it’s always someone else.

    New people get saved and come into the fold. They struggle and mature and grow right past these other types. Everyone has hurts. Everyone is a broken life and a needy soul to some extent or another. Why can’t these people mature? I have seen the most blatantly promiscuous souls come to faith in Christ and mature quickly. I have seen people so broken and shattered you wonder if they will survive. Yet they overcome their horrible backgrounds much sooner than I believed possible, owing to the grace of God. But I have also seen souls with little difficulty in their background flounder in immaturity and carnality for years.

    What about these people?

  2. Greg,

    First, it would be hard to address a specific situation with a general comment, not knowing the individual(s). There are some things to consider however. Does the immature person give evidence of God’s saving grace exemplified by biblical fruit? Are they immature or unspiritual? The two are not the same. If someone persists in sinful habits and lifestyles with no fruit of repentance then it is necessary to go to such a one in private and help them see their sin (Matt 18:15ff).

    I also think of our need for patience with those who are weak or in sin (1 Thess 5:14) and the necessary gentleness that is needed to bring one back into communion (Gal 6:1). Additionally, we need to be sure that we are shepherding in love with a close eye on our own sanctification. Regardless of their spiritual state we know that the Lord has placed them in your ministry for your good. It might be spiritually profitable to you to list ways in which the Lord is using such individuals to strengthen your ministry. Here are a couple of thoughts in this regard:

    1. Difficult people drive us to more fervent personal worship (prayer and reading the Scriptures).
    2. They cause us to refine our shepherding in the event we have been unclear or impatient.
    3. They force us to examine our own hearts before Christ (Gal 6:1).
    4. They are God-given opportunities to show love like Christ (sacrificial, first, humble, enduring).
    5.They are reflections of God’s grace in our own lives and further reason to glorify the Lord.

    Anyone who has pastored for any length of time can identify with your question. I certainly have felt the sting of difficult people in ministry yet there go I but for God’s grace. I am so thankful for spiritual leaders (like Jerry Wragg) who have showed incredible patience with me when I was just beginning ministry. I’m also thankful for those in our church who are able to overlook my shortcomings and pursue Christ in love with me. Keep shepherding the flock and don’t lose sight of the big picture.


  3. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on March 25, 2010 at 9:12 am

    One of the most important roles of a shepherd is to make wise judgments with regards to what type of sheep or goat your ministering to. I see that very clearly in texts like 1 Thess 5:14-15, Jude 22-23, etc. You must accurately diagnose your patient before you can minister to them accordingly.

    Jerry’s post is quite convicting in so many ways. Thanks!

    Of course even the Apostle Paul had seasons of ministry burn-out and/or spiritual depression (note 2 Corinthians).

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