Most of the time I battle with a complete sense of exhaustion. As a pastor, there are almost endless requests made for my time and energy. This is part of the calling, part of the job. Cognitively I appreciate it. Apart from the sinful temptation of pride (feeling good about being needed), I am humbled by the position and platform that God has placed me in and the responsibility to care for others, to care for their souls. The problem is that this constant withdrawal can lead to burn out or maybe worst – bitterness.
We have all been in seasons where we fake caring. We go through the motions and smile but, honestly, on the inside, we are far more concerned with the weather than we are the person in front of us. All of us would agree that is no place we want to be.
There is no shortage of advice in dealing with this. The top suggestions are to stay consistent in biblical devotion, pray often, have a mentor and a true friend, take some time off, and build margin into your schedule.
Recently I feel I have stumbled on another help for this challenge – investing in fertile relationships. Here is the truth: some people don’t want to change. They don’t want to mature; they don’t want to do better. They are calling the pastor in order to complain or seek validation. These people will often dominate our time and thinking and schedule. I recently responded to a coffee invitation. The gentleman told me it would only take an hour or so and he would like to know more about the church. I spent three hours hearing about how much he did not like his previous church and how he felt my church should release some core doctrines. I am not doing that any longer.
Let me be clear though – God sometimes does call us to mentor or disciple some tough seeds. Most people take some time to develop and will often mess up along the way. We did. But there are others who have repeatedly refused to listen to the advice you give. Maybe it is time to lovingly give that relationship some space.
This isn’t only true in discipleship relationships in which you are pouring into another. This is true of many of our “professional” or peer relationships. I can’t tell you how often I have to jump through hoops, wait several weeks, or speak to an assistant in order to schedule a coffee with another local pastor. I know some disagree but this just shouldn’t be. I’ve decided that, if they are that busy, then I shouldn’t add to the list.
The tragedy is not so much that we are drained of valuable time, affection, and energy. It is that when we spend that on unreceptive targets we have nothing left to give to those who truly want it. I have walked away from my wife wanting to talk in order to respond to a needy email. I have told one young man in my church that I didn’t have time for lunch because I was chasing down someone I thought had “real leadership potential.” While we may not notice it at first, we all have people in our lives and ministries that want to be lead by us. They truly want God to use us to make them more like Christ. Your children, your wife, younger nearby ministers, and maybe even a few men at church. These are fertile relationships. These are relationships that will most likely bear fruit.
This is not an easy line to walk but I believe it is a worthwhile one to consider. Who in your life have you given enough to? Which relationships should you just take a step back from? And with that freed up bandwidth, which invitations to discipleship could you accept?
Josh King is the lead pastor at Sachse’s Church (Just Northeast of Dallas) and passionate about church revitalization and WORDsearch. You can connect with him at twitter.com/JoWiKi.
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