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5 Ways to Recover Your Passion for Pastoral Leadership

Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given into feelings of distance from God and others, we play the victim and pout in the corner, acting entirely uninterested in the things that matter most to our deepest relationships. But God has spoken and this blog post doesn’t even compare to the re-igniting power of the eternal word of God.
  3. Practice the discipline of prayer. Set aside thirty minutes to just pray. If you run out of things to say, sit silently and listen, but don’t cut the time short. It doesn’t always have to be thirty minutes, but start there. I know you don’t feel like it. You’re not even sure God is listening anymore, but deep down you know the truth. So re-join the conversation.
  4. Love people. Get in touch with friends, serve others, and pray for people in pain. Talk about your issues. Isolation is deadly. You have to fight to beat your desire to retreat. The best way to climb out of the misery of self-focus is to intentionally become others-focused. Spend some time praying for others, then see how you can serve them.
  5. Feast yourself on the lavish love and unfathomable depth of God’s grace. Stop living by performance, the to-do list, and the tyranny of the inbox. You can’t work hard enough to make God happy with you. You simply must rest in the assurance that He’s pleased with you in Christ. His grace is always, always, always sufficient!!

Here’s the thing. I like books, blogs, and seminars about leadership and church growth. They give us ideas, inspire us to lead better, and equip us with skills we couldn’t otherwise possess. But none of those things will bring healing like a deepening relationship with Jesus. And that comes through the humbling work of prayer, Bible-reading, repentance, reliance on God’s grace, and ministry to others through acts of love.

You know what to do. Let Jesus become bigger and more glorious in your eyes than ever before.

Why You Might Be Missing Out on Hearing from God

Quiet

Ever been in that place where you wonder why God isn’t showing up? Why there is no fresh word from Him? In places of depression and despair, we are so often yearning for what it seems God isn’t willing to give us – His voice.

Elijah the prophet was there once. He was exhausted physically and drained emotionally. So in a solitary place, God sent an angel to feed him and force him to rest. Then, in a cave, God met him, and the story is written for us to learn from…

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11-13 NLT

God shows up in the smallest, quietest of ways, waiting for us to quiet our souls enough to hear His gentle whisper. We want the earth-shaking revelation and the Pentecost-like wind and fire of His presence. Meanwhile, He invites us to come daily to the solitary place so that, through His Word, He can speak softly to our souls.

Our disappointment with God has much more to do with our expectations of Him than with His performance. We’re demanding God show up in ways that seem powerful to us, but He’s already here whispering through His promises.

You and I love those mountain-top revival-esque moments, and God sometimes works through miraculous wonders, but far more consistently and faithfully, He shows up in our shadows and whispers like a friend who has drawn near to our faces. Sometimes we just need to slow down and get still long enough to hear His Spirit remind us of His Word.

Photo by Michael Hull.

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?

Born Again, By the Living Word of God

New life doesn’t come from enlightenment. New life comes only from the message of the good news of Jesus, which God has unveiled and made known for anyone who is willing to listen. To believers Peter wrote, “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23 NLT)

Here’s the blunt truth – mankind is hopelessly lost in sin, unable to saved ourselves or fix our mess. And into the middle of our mess, God has spoken. He has revealed Himself and His truth, which culminates in the message of the cross. Jesus died for sinners, paying our price, and then rose again in victory over sin, death, and the grave. This is our only hope, and this is the good news God has revealed for our redemption.

The Word of God is directly involved in our being born again to new life in Jesus. Without a word from God, we’d wander endlessly in our search for truth. But God has made His truth available to us by inspiring the Bible’s various authors, breathing His words through them as they wrote. And though it has been banned and burned in the fires of persecution for centuries, it survives, preserved for us today by the protection of the Father.

The Bible that often sits on a shelf in the closet or cooking on a car’s back dash between Sundays is the most precious possession we can own. It contains the message that transforms us, not just once when we are born again, but continually, daily, throughout eternity. It’s worth reading and heeding.

We Desperately Need a More Sure Word

Never before has the debate been so intense about the nature of truth. On the one hand, our culture argues strongly that autonomous human reason is the final word on truth, that there is no possibility of supernatural divine revelation, and that morality is entirely subjective. On the other hand, wise men and women take refuge in a more sure word from God, believing that God has spoken and has revealed Himself to us in an infallible way in the Scriptures – in the Bible.

Even within Christianity, there is a growing number of leaders who divide God from His Word, presuming to have the capacity to rule out various pieces and passages of Scripture as sub-par according to human reason. But the Apostle Paul declared something that I believe with my whole heart: “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” (1 Corinthians 2:13 NLT)

I believe in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And because I believe in God, I accept that He can speak and can preserve His Words through any medium He so chooses. One of my heroes in the faith, W. A. Criswell, said this about the revelation of God:

“The written word, the spoken word, the incarnate word are all three inseparably tied together. God is identified with his Word and the Word is identified with God – the written Word, the spoken Word, and the incarnate Word. Whenever I receive the Word of God, I receive God himself. When I believe the Word of God, I believe God himself. Spiritually, when I know the Word of God, I know God himself. When I trust the Word of God, I trust God himself. God and his Word are identified forever. The Psalmist says, ‘For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven’ (Psalm 119:89). God’s Word is like God himself, the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

In a world gone mad, we need a more sure word than what human reason has to offer. And while subjective morality has left us floundering and drowning spiritually, God has revealed and preserved His Word for anyone willing to hear it. And this more sure word from God offers an invitation with solid assurance that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NLT)