Burnt out? More ministry isn’t the answer

Kenneth Chew // June 1, 2018, 11:49 am


Do you feel like your flame’s about to go out?

God’s sparks must land on the tinder of our hearts. When the little flame is fanned long enough, it becomes a force to be reckoned with: No longer fragile, but self-sustaining, relentless and all-consuming.

But even before the fire of ministry happens, we must be tinder. We cannot fake the real stuff. He must set your spirit ablaze. Everything starts with Him (Matthew 6:33).

Instead of prescriptively treating symptoms of burn-out with things like more vacations or dramas, many of us need to refocus on what matters most – God Himself.

Many of us start well but lose our way and make ministry the main thing.

We began to read the Bible only for the sake of teaching. We lived well so we could be good testimonies. We prayed so we could work better. We led hundreds of people into intimate worship, but never did so alone.

If we’re not careful, Christianity quickly turn into a means to other noble-sounding ends: A better world, social justice, feeding the poor, fulfilment, redemption and healing.

Good things. But we risk missing the point entirely.

The point is God Himself. We are to commune with Him and draw from Him. We were meant to experience Him – to worship Him.

The moment we stop going up the mountain, crying “Show me Your glory” – we come face to face with the scarcity of our hearts instead.

“The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.”
(AW Tozer)

When you’re burnt out, dry and deluded – you’re not drinking (John 7:37-39).

By “drinking”, I don’t mean simply reading the Bible more, praying harder, serving more, or putting more Christian songs into your playlists.

Instead of his anointing, gifts, blessings and favour – pursue Him alone. Boldly go to His throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). Strive to enter into the secret place (Psalm 91:1). Wait upon Him (Isaiah 40:31).

Put God back in the sacred temple of your heart (1 Corinthians 6:19), violently ridding your temple courts from vested interests and activities (Matthew 21:12). Sit unhurried at Jesus’s feet (Luke 10:39). Go back to the start and stay there until the Holy Spirit stirs in you (Exodus 33:15).

Claim His transcendent peace by surrender (Philippians 4:6-7), and strive to enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:11).

In other words, if you don’t feel blessed, recapture your poorness of spirit. Possess nothing (Matt 19:21). Don’t settle for anything other than God Himself.

Now that you rightfully enthrone Him, build your life on a bedrock of truth.

“See how feebly the soul limps along, unless it is planted in solid truth,” (St Augustine)

Truth must be felt in the heart, echoed in the soul, understood with the mind, and lived out with one’s strength.

I recall vivi Zacharias’ three tests for a truth claim: Logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance. Christian theology passes the first test. Good attempts have been made to answer the second, not perfectly, but adequately enough.

But confronted with the third test, many of us are shaken. God might make perfect sense, but without tangible experiencing Him – our faith lacks conviction.

The added pressure and expectations of ministry lead us to don ministerial masks when we serve. We become deluded.

So what drives our lives?

Confronted with the inner struggle for experiential relevance, one rushes to fill life with things to ensure one’s relevance – to give comfort, to provide context. For most people, it’s career, status, romance or children.

For Christians, if it’s not the same things in Jesus’ Name – it’s “ministry.”

But “ministry” or “fellowship” cannot feed you. Rather, they simply express inner convictions that must be wrestled with God, personally and corporately.

When we cannot honestly talk about our faith experience, we delude ourselves. A generic creed or communal half-truth will not answer the tough questions for you. Every leg in truth’s tripod must pull weight.

A quest for truth will not always lead to worship, but true worshippers must be honest and relentless pursuers of truth (John 4:24), especially because Truth reveals itself as a person (John 14:6).

So wrestle with God about the difficult stuff.

Let people in; they will wrestle along with you. Wrestle with it as you share your faith, teach and minister. Pursue the truth with love. Let your wrestling draw you deeper into His inner courts; fear and trembling are part of the pilgrimage (Philippians 2:12).

If we are to love Jesus with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – our pursuit of Him must be on all fronts. On the path of righteousness, the Word is your map, truth your compass, and the world your playground. Faith is how you connect the dots.

Such a glorious pursuit promises to be a worthy exchange for our struggles. When it comes to ministry, we need to prioritise well.

Pursue God first. Be unapologetically real. Let people in.

Ministry flows naturally from these things.