Burn On… Not Out

18 01 2012

Six months ago I was in a bad, bad place.  No, it wasn’t a casino or a strip club.  It wasn’t a bar or a brothel.

I was in “Burnout” City.  And I didn’t even know it.

When I discovered I was there, I discovered that it is much more common than I wanted to admit.  I began to see the signs everywhere, in my own life and in the lives of those around me.  Because of this, I felt it was important to share my journey to “Burnout City” with you, in hopes that you can avoid finding yourselves there.  If you are already there, hopefully you’ll be able to glean some wisdom and get back on track… back on the Road to Refreshing.

“Repent… that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” Acts 3:19

I had heard about “burnout” from other pastors and leaders, but I truly believed that I was immune to such a thing.  I am a positive guy.  I am not prone to extremes.  I don’t really get depressed or down.  I was convinced that burnout was something that happened to other, much weaker people, but not to me.Image

However, as ministry continued,  I knew something wasn’t right.  Although I would have never called it burnout, I was very aware that I was stuck.  I felt as if all of my energy and efforts produced no forward momentum.  No matter what I did, it seemed nothing was moving forward.  I had no vision for the future, I was paralyzed by menial decisions, I was caught up in meaningless pursuits… I was a leadership mess.  My excitement about what I was doing was at an all time low.  I found myself drifting in the sea of “routine”.  Same thing, different day.  Over and over and over.

In the midst of all of this, I came across a book called “Leading On Empty” by Wayne Cordeiro (which I highly recommend).  In it, the author, a Pastor himself, shared his own story of “burnout”, and his pathway out of it.  What he experienced was so much like what I was going through, it scared me.  And what scared me even more was the reality of what could happen if I continued down this path.

If things didn’t change, I would not be in ministry in very near future. 

For the next two weeks, I intentionally began to seek God on this matter.  I secluded myself and began to ask Him to help me see what had happened, and how to get back on track.  It didn’t take long to recognize how it happened.  Here is what God revealed to me about my “Road to Burnout City”:

  • I Neglected Personal Time In God’s Word – It didn’t happen over night, but slowly, my personal time in God’s Word deteriorated.  Instead of daily times listening to God speak directly to me and my heart condition, my time with God was primarily centered around preparing for a message or speaking opportunity.
  • I Became Self-Sufficient – I have always struggled with consistent times of prayer, but during this stretch, Prayer was almost non-existent.  I rarely asked God to do anything… except to bless some event we were doing.  I was living an almost completely self-sufficient life, needing very little from God.
  • I Neglected My Physical Condition – I stopped working out or exercising and I placed little restraint on my eating habits.  I justified my lack of exercise thinking I was to busy doing the work of ministry.  When you add a horrific diet, I started to gain weight and feel poorly.  By the time I made it home at the end of the day, I had little energy to engage my wife and kids in meaningful ways.  I found myself drawn to mindless activities that required little to no effort or energy (internet, news, TV…)
  • I Took No Time Away – I understood the spiritual principle of “getting away”, but I never made it a priority.  And when I did get away, I was not intentional about re-connecting with God… rather I viewed it as more of a “break” from Him.  Ultimately, I was missing the very reason I needed to get “away” to begin with.
  • I Didn’t Understand What “Refreshed” Me – There are certain activities that “refresh” us, and because I had never considered what those things were for me, I was never intentional about engaging in them.  No refreshing leads to living less than fresh.

That was basically what the “Road to Burnout” looked like for me.  I would venture to say that if you are feeling “Burnt out”, that many of the above things are true of you as well.  It seldom happens overnight, but very slowly, our intensity on the things that matter the most starts to wain, and if we wander down that path long enough, we find ourselves on the outskirts of “Burnout City”.

If your there, it’s not too late to turn around.  The first step for me was to get away and get with God.  It might be the first step for you too.  As soon as possible, I would encourage you to grab your Bible and journal, and take an hour or two (maybe more) to allow God to reveal to you what your “road” looks like.  It might be different, or it might be similar, but when you see it, you will be able to start making the necessary changes to get off the Road your on, and back onto the Road of Refreshing.

In the next couple of days, I’ll post more on what it looked like to get back on the Road to Refreshing, and what specific changes I had to make to stay there.

Burn on, my friends!  Burn On!


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