Friday, May 19, 2006

A "Burnt-Out" Offering?

Lately, we have been talking about distinctions that believers have a tendency to make in their personal and communal lives. In the last post, "Who's the Priest", I talked about how our current models of ministry have actually become a roadblock to an intimate relationship with God for what we call the "laity". A good friend, Christy, said the following,

"The 'laity' are satisfied for the most part to allow a man to speak God's word to them and for them because that takes the responsibility off their shoulders."

This is a great point that I would like to talk a little more about.

While on the one hand, the current institutional model of a "one man show" can cause the "clergy" to hinder the growth of other believers, on the other hand, the "clergy" themselves suffer under the weight of their supposed "responsibilities". The hindrances of our current ministry models are most assuredly a two-way street!

Ministers are taught that within the church, they are to bear the burdens of administration, counseling, funerals, weddings, hospital visitation, evangelism and then prepare anywhere from 1-3 (or more) powerful sermons to keep the local body "fed". Kind of sounds like Superman, huh? Pastoral "burnout" has become commonplace while ministers try to juggle their spouses, children and the ever-increasing demands of the local body. I have heard that one of the professions with the highest number of divorces is the "clergy". It is even a common understanding that "PK's", or "Preacher's Kids", often rebel and/or backslide, never to darken the door of the church again. Something is terribly wrong!

Does God really call "clergymen" to sacrifice their families for the sake of the "flock"? Are pastors called to be a "burnt-out" offering for the Lord? While trying to impart the fruit of the Spirit to others, should ministers lack peace and joy themselves? I think not. But, instead of questioning the current paradigm of what it means to be a "minister", and instead of asking if this really is God's intention, we find new ways to put the proverbial "band-aid" on a gaping wound.

Are ministers really called to shepherd 50, 100 or 1000 people? Is it even possible to do so? Could it be that the "clergy" has been biting off more than it could chew? If the current church paradigm of "bigger is better" really is true, why did Jesus exchange the crowds for only 12 disciples? It seems that by today's standards, Jesus would be considered a ministry failure! Instead of the "mega-church", we find Jesus in a boat with a few dirty fishermen, sharing the secrets of the Kingdom of God. Could it be that, while seeminly more insignificant, ministering with smaller numbers of people could prove to be more effective?

One of my closest friends, Steve Sensenig, in a recent post entitled "Multiplication Ministry and Maturity", discussed how, while seemingly more productive, the current model of ministry actually slows down the progress and number of disciples. In the post, he shows how our current paradigm is based on addition, rather than multiplication. Churches are considered more successful when the number of people attending grows, thereby, making that particular church larger. But, does this cause the Body of Christ at large to become stronger? I think that, many times, it does not. The local church has become like the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea has no outlet, and therefore, becomes a resting place for all the minerals therein. In the same way, instead of believers being "equipped for the work of the ministry", ministers take the work of the ministry upon themselves, leaving them feeling "burnt-out" and the "pew-sitter" feeling unimportant or unnecessary. Instead of increasing the number in a given church, should we not seek to increase the number of churches? Instead of increasing the responsibility of a few, should we not increase the number of responsible persons, thereby making the burden lighter for everyone? It seems that this would mean less stress for a few, and more growth for many. Synergy is a powerful thing you know:) Any healthy organism eventually must stop growing, and instead start reproducing. This, I believe, would have a more profound effect on the Body of Christ both numerically, and spiritually. Could this lead to a greater fulfillment of the Great Commission, by birthing more "disciples" instead of more "converts"?

I believe it is a shame that many men and women, who once were so enthusiastic about living for God, have had their fire extinguished because someone told them that "bigger is better". This belief has led to many of God's precious people feeling condemned for not having a "larger" impact, and drained the life out of others who actually "arrived" according to the current model. Maybe we have to grow smaller in order to grow larger. What do you think?


christy said...

Great post, Raborn :)
I was reading today about a pastor's wife who was asking for advice on how to deal with a situation. The situation was that her husband was spending alot of time away from his family because he was busy with "the church". He was spending so much time away that she was feeling neglected. She was seeking the answer to feeling incredibly lonely. This seems to be off balance to me. Are there pastors out there that are equating God with "the church" as their first priority and ignoring the fact that their wives should be a priority over their work. I don't read that our first priority should be the "the church". It should be intimate fellowship with God, first only to our family. Am I missing something?
I am sure the situation with the wife I mentioned above is not an isolated case. It just really saddens me that relationships (many, I might add) are suffering because of a structure that (I believe) was not intended (by God) to be there in the first place.
Thanks so much for wanting to discuss these things so freely.

Christy :)

Raborn Johnson said...

It is a shame, but I agree that this seems to be more common than we think. Pastor's are so busy ministering to someone elses family, that they are left with no time for their own. It is no wonder that "PK's" have a tendency to be rebellious, and it's a shame that a man feels he must neglect his spouse for the "work of God". What a crazy idea! Does the exhortation "husbands love your wives as Christ love the Church" not apply to the "clergy"? Christy, I could not agree more that many people confuse God with "the church". I have thought about this alot. When people don't jump through every hoop that the church requires or advocates, they are often looked at as "unfaithful", "uncommitted", or "rebellious". In the end, the only family any of us are completely responsible for, is our own! Great input, Christy!

Anonymous said...

It is true pastors are forgetting the importance of there own family. The divorce rate in pastor's have sky rocketed. Also there's an average of 23,000 pastors leaving the church each year. That's becuase they're getting burned out at the families are getting burned out. God will always be number one in my life, then family, then the church. Pastor's do have to keep there focus straight, or the devil will come in and distroy the family.

Raborn Johnson said...

Could it be that pastors are getting burned out because they are doing more than God ever called them to? It seems to me impossible to walk in the fruit of the Spirit (ie. peace & joy) and be burned-out at the same time. If Jesus' yoke really is easy, and His burden really is light, why does the job of the "clergy" seem to be so hard, and why do they seem to carry such heavy responsibilities?