Why do people burn out from their jobs?

I am a pastor and this is a job that I love. I trust in the call of God to equip me to fulfill the commands and promises of God. I know that I am not perfect but I rejoice that God will yet still work through me to share the good news of forgiveness and renewal.

As godly and grand as my vocation is designed to be, I recognize that the ideal of a pastor’s vocation is designed to be messy. The gospel is designed by God to be in this world precisely because we are messy sinners.

The messiness of sin is where God’s word is designed to be present. I am not meant to find my days as perfect moments of righteousness. Indeed I am continually reminded of my own failings and the failings of others. Always engaging in ministry in the tension between sin and promise can be exhausting for pastors.

At blog.logos.com there is mention of a 2005-06 survey of 1050 pastors. In this survey more than 70% of these pastors said they felt burned out and depressed. This is a scary high number. The devil is prowling around like a lion indeed and he is seeking to devour us.

As a pastor and as a friend I need to be purposeful about reaching out to other pastors. I don’t think we are successful pastors if we attempt to work on little islands in a big sea. Trying to work on a lonely, isolated island will eventually cause me to imagine myself lost and forgotten by the passing traffic.

We are not alone, we are part of a communion of saints delivering the forgiveness of sins. How can I share this communion of the saints with people that are becoming burned out in their vocation?

In the LCMS pastors gather monthly at circuit meetings. When a brother is absent from these meetings I want to find a way to make sure he knows he was missed. Our circuit meetings are successful when they are more than just social gatherings. They are gatherings that bring me encouragement when we are joined together by the power of God’s word and share with one another the reality of how God’s word comes into our messy, sinful lives.

I fondly remember some pastors in my Niagara circuit who regularly sent out note cards of encouragement. I do not want any of my friends in the ministry to drift into burnout. I do not want to become the passing sea traffic that passes by the man lost on an isolated island in the big sea.

October has become the recognized month for purposeful thanksgiving for pastors. I know that I am appreciative of all the words and gifts of encouragement that I have received. I also know that I can become more than the person that receives this encouragement. I can become a part of extending this encouragement to others.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV)


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