A shocking lack of burnout

Posted: November 1, 2011 by deadfliesmike in Church

I want to introduce you to a shocking statistic

“In Australia, around one quarter of church leaders are experiencing burnout as an extreme or significant issue, whilst around half are potential candidates for burnout (Kaldor & Bullpitt, 2001)”

This is a major problem, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Psychologists say that the way for ministers to avoid burnout is threefold.

1. Personal autonomy- being able to act independently of the congregation or denominational structures

2.A sense of competence in ministry- “I am able to do this job”

3. Spiritual connectedness- a sense of unbroken connection to God.

To me then, the statistic is shocking. 50% of ministers AREN’T burntout.
50% of ministers act without interdependence, think they are actually up to the task and identify their own activity with God’s.

Sometimes people want to go beyond the psychological to describe burnout as spiritual attack.

The foolishly conservative among us think ministers of the gospel are not under spiritual attack. And so we think we can prevent burnout with days off and trinkets.

The foolishly charismatic among us think the attack comes primarily from satan. And so we fervently pray as though our lives were more disagreeable to the Father of lies than to the Lord of Glory.

I want to suggest that ministers of the gospel are under spiritual attack from the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit binds us to others in the church. Blowing like the wind,  the Holy Spirit wipes away our sense of competence.  The Holy Spirit awakens us to judgement, so that we cannot simply identify our lives with the will of God.
As we wrestle with the Angel of God, how do we think we will come away uninjured?
There is certainly a spiritual battle going on in ministers of the gospel.
Most of us fools think the best thing for us is to win this spiritual battle.
Friends, your ministers are under spiritual attack. Pray that they lose.

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Comments
  1. Jonathan says:

    Wellsie, I’m going to need time to get my head around this. Then I’ll figure out what I want to ask you about it. Made me laugh though…

  2. I’d like to question the psychological response to avoiding burnout. As someone who teeters on the edge of burnout on occasion, those three things are not what pushes me back into the safe zone. What does help me is a reminder that I am not in control. Humbleness before the Spirit is key. The psychological response smacks of human-centric thinking. Recognising that you are not in control, that you are not capable of doing the task, that all of this really is beyond you – then realising that the Spirit is going to do it anyway and that it is God who makes things happen – that’s the key.

    • Jonathan says:

      Great to hear your experience of this stuff Joel. I’m too lazy to be on the edge of burnout at the moment, but I’ll remember this discussion when it does happen.

      I might push back a little about human-centred thinking. Not sure that it’s such a bad thing really – Jesus is human, right?

  3. Hey Wellsie

    I think you might be over reacting a little bit much to wording of the study, but I love your thoughts about wrestling with God and getting slammed.

    Thanks

  4. Hi Toby, yeah, it is a bit of hyperbole, I actually think the study is quite good!
    Burnout sucks. It is horrible and destroys people.
    But I want to honour the guys who step into the breach and get nailed.
    There are a lot of dumb reasons to burnout, and a whole lot of pressures from sinful people, and we do well to avoid them. Still, we follow a God who kills and then raises, mortifies then vivifies.(to steal some Webster).
    I’m noticing a pattern in my church of saying “God wouldn’t really want me to do anything that jeopardizes my comfortable middle class existence”, and I can’t help but think that this attitude stems from the leadership at some point.
    A lot of approaches look at burnout as though the people who burnout must be doing something wrong. And the solutions read as ‘How to not get crucified’. That should probably cause us some concern as christians.
    I wanted to question the idea that the goal of ministry is to continue in ministry. Our frame of reference should be the judgement of Jesus , not the continuing function of our churches.
    (that said, I tacked on the burnout bit to the ‘wrestling with God’ bit, so maybe it is irrelevant)
    Anyways, I’m finding ministry scary, because the sheer mercy and goodness of God (and representing that) is scary!

    @Joel.
    Yep, I agree, although taking that perspective often includes a bit of confusion and frustration at what exactly God is up to.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Wellsie, do you think it’s possible to feel:

    2.A sense of competence in ministry- “I am able to do this job”

    and yet that be a humble thought? And at the same time feel that unless God gives his grace and power, the ministry will be fruitless?

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