Overcoming Ministry Burnout


National Association of Christian Ministers How to Series: Ministry #

By Michael Mooney, NACM Exec. Elder

Losing Sight of Ministry

It is not uncommon to find yourself in the routines of ministry; suddenly feeling as though you are losing sight of things. This may occur for a multitude of reasons. Maybe you have been spending too much time in board meetings, putting out the fires of church politics, or even dealing with spiritual attacks on your family. These necessary duties of ministry can begin to toll on your emotions, causing your insights to seem dull and not very inspirational. Under these conditions, it is just a matter of time before you begin questioning whether you are in God’s will for your life.

Can You Relate?

Does any of this sound familiar? Of course it does. The reality is that ministry is not full of roses and celebrations over spiritual victories. To believe so is naive and far removed from reality.

The Bible says that Jesus was a man well acquainted with many sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). Further, he was rejected by his peers (Luke 4:24); ridiculed for his age (John 8:57); laughed at (Luke 8:52, 53); mocked (Luke 23:11); called crazy, accused of having a demon (John 10:20); and held back by those who did not believe in him (Mark 6:5, 6). Nevertheless, despite the people’s unbelief, he did not stop believing in them.

To think that our experiences in ministry will not also share in these sorrows is an inaccurate perspective of the love of Christ. If you are anything like me, at times you are guilty of such fanciful thinking and feel stupid upon realizing it. Don’t! It is common for all of us to wish things to be easier than they are, and to underestimate the difficulty involved in tasks. Further, as humans we do not naturally seek to discover errors in our thinking, and somehow we entertain unrealistic ideals of perfect sets of circumstances where everything goes as planned. Our experiences demonstrate otherwise, and often we are the very objects of mistakes; thereby becoming obstacles to our own goals. Yet we should be encouraged because our Father remembers our frames, and that we come from dust (Psalm 103:14). His grace for us is incalculable, and His mercies a new every morning (Lam 3:22, 23).


Running, Fighting, and Striving

In a pastoral epistle, Paul speaks of ministry as running a race and fighting a good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). The key to any success in running a race is endurance. It requires constant commitment to focusing on the vision of crossing the finish line. Careful pacing, timed breathing, and pushing forward are imperative practices to reaching the goal. The same is true of fighting a good fight. The warrior must anticipate attack, stand his ground and maintain a relentless commitment to not surrendering to the blows of the enemy!

Jesus describes this path as a narrow striving toward a destination while many fall by the wayside (Luke 13:24). His use of the word strive describes the act of contending for a prize. Paul carries this theme describing ministry as a goal which requires “striving” together in prayer and for mastery (Romans 15:30; 2 Timothy 2:5). He uses two Greek words for striving that describe a partnership in struggles, and a contending in competitive spots.


What Shall We Conclude?

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So that, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not without fruit in the Lord” (1Co 15:57-58 MKJV).

There is coming a day when God’s ministers will attend the reward ceremony of Heaven. May we live today, so that we may say then, “I ran the race through adversity, paced myself so I did not faint, jumped the hurdles that were intended to make me fall and finished the race that was before me. I strove in labor, sharing the burdens of the Body of Christ. I carried the torch into a dark world. I fought the good fight for my soul, my marriage, my family, and the flock that God gave me. And by the grace of God I never gave up hope, and by the power of His Spirit, I did not surrender to the enemy! AMEN.”