A couple of weeks ago another megachurch pastor announced his resignation. He spoke about the fact that for the last 14 years he has been focused on building a church community where everyone’s welcome. Then, he said “in the meantime, I haven’t prioritized some things that were equally as important. Leaders who lead on empty don’t lead well. For some time, I’ve been leading on empty.”
“We’ve said that this is a church where it’s okay to not be okay, and I’m not okay. I’m tired. And I’m broken and I just need some rest.”
I can’t get that phrase out of my head… “I’m broken and I just need some rest.”
I don’t know this pastor personally and everything I have ever heard about him has been positive. I am praying for this pastor and his family as they recalibrate their lives and discover a new way to live and do ministry.
But highly gifted pastors stepping down or being forced to step down in what seems like the prime of their ministry has become all too common.
By the way, this isn’t limited to senior pastors. I meet with church staff members all over the country and I regularly hear people in ministry talk about leading on empty. It’s in big churches and small churches… it’s in urban, suburban and rural churches.
And, you don’t have to be running at an insane pace to be running on empty. I think the primary issue here isn’t the size of your ministry or the pace of your ministry. The PRIMARY issue has to do with the health of your soul (your interior life).
I think it is helpful to acknowledge right up front, that none of us have it all together or have this completely figured out. These are complex days in which to do ministry and it is extremely challenging to maintain a healthy soul along the way. But here is what I know to be true about most pastors. You love God. You have an authentic desire to serve Him and you are trying to be faithful to God’s call on your life.
So I want us to take a step back from our day to day responsibility and examine how we are living and leading.
Prov. 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.
Wise people give thought to their ways. If you keep living the way you are living, where does it end up? How would you describe the path you are on right now?
In Exodus 33, Moses and the Lord are discussing the issue of going into the Promised Land.
The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. Exodus 33:14-15 (NIV)
In Exodus 3, God’s presence wasn’t enough for Moses. In Exodus 33, God’s presence was all that mattered to Moses.
In my opinion, God throws us a curve ball in verse 14 of Exodus 33. I would think that God would have said “My presence will go with you and I will give you success.” That’s what makes logical sense. Or “my presence will go with you and I will give you protection, prosperity, and influence.”
But God says, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you REST.”
In Jeremiah 6:16, we read
This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'
There it is again… “rest.” Do you want to live and lead from a full soul? Do you want to do ministry from a place of joy?
Then learn to do ministry from a place of rest.
I’ve been thinking lately about what it means when we rest physically.
Rest means I stop.
Rest acknowledges that I have limits.
Rest is about being, not doing.
Rest sets aside striving and producing.
Rest is quiet.
Rest is relaxing.
Rest is about creating space and time to refill.
IF YOU DON’T LEARN HOW TO REST IN GOD YOU WON’T GET THE BEST FROM GOD.
In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
The idea is that His yoke fits. It’s agreeable. It works. When we do life God’s way, the burden is light.
I know that when I am spiritually empty, the yoke of life and ministry gets real heavy.
I love how Jesus describes himself. He says, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” When you are burdened down, you don’t need a taskmaster. You don’t need someone shaking their finger in your face. You need HELP. You need someone gentle and caring.
Could it be that this is what you really need most and even most deeply long for? Could it be God’s first priority in your life is a connected and joyful and refreshed soul? Could it be true in your ministry that His yoke could be easy and His burden could be light? Could it be possible to find the kind of rest for your soul that leads you to say, genuinely, “Jesus is enough?”