3 Essentials for Staying Fresh: Roots, Rhythm, and Relationships

Burnout is easy to accomplish. In fact, it’s our default destination when all we do is coast along. I’ve conversed with tons of pastors who are discouraged. Not one of them predicted it. It always sneaks up on us. It’s the creep – the gentle drift – that is the most common culprit of a healthy soul’s demise.

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, let me challenge you to make three bold decisions today, and every day hereafter.

1. I will grow deeper roots.

One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (NKJV)

We all want to bear fruit, but the prerequisite to doing so is tapping down and spreading out our roots. When our roots are deep, hot, dry weather and seasons of suffering won’t kill us at our core.

And how does a pastor put down deeper roots? By doing the things we are most prone to neglect in the busyness of ministry:

  • Cultivating a richer relationship with God, the Holy Spirit, through prayer.
  • Absorbing the nourishment of God’s Word.
  • Connecting with church history and the biographies of great leaders.
  • Pouring our best energy into our marriages and families.
  • Having friends, even at the risk of getting hurt sometimes.

We ought to study systems, strive for growth, and read books on leadership. But we can’t neglect the study of old things, eternal things, and spiritual things.

2. I will fight to stay in rhythm.

Balance is an elusive and fleeting goal. You’ll never be able to give equal energy to all of the various relationships and commitments in your life because life doesn’t work on a routine schedule. Instead, you need rhythm. Or in the words of Johnny Cash, “Get rhythm… when you get the blues…”

Rhythm is achieved when we orient our lives properly to whatever is God’s will. It’s when my calling to be a man (or woman) of God determines my schedule. There will be seasons and weekends that I’m busy doing church things, evenings when I’m ignoring the phone and wrestling with kids, and time for rest and physical activity. I know the next thing to do based, not on the tyranny of the urgent or the expectations of others, but on my calling place Jesus first.

Finding rhythm requires eliminating clutter, saying “no” to good opportunities, and asking those closest to us for honest feedback about how they perceive us to be handling life.

3. I will cultivate relationships.

Most ministry leaders that I know have a tendency to withdraw and to isolate, especially when things are not well. When we’re stressed, we avoid people. When we’re down, we’d rather be down alone. We don’t want to burden others. We don’t want to have to fake a smile. So we hide.

I can remember a season in ministry when negative questions and complaints were coming from too many directions. People would drop by the office to share something like “people have been talking, and they’re upset about _____” Fill in the blank. And during that season, I braced myself every time I heard the door or heard the phone ring.

Eventually, I learned that good, healthy relationships serve as a place of retreat. I need people in my life who will be honest with me, but I also need people who I can simply trust to be “safe.” Even when friends are honest, they care about my heart and have my best interests in mind.

If you’re still advising younger ministry leaders to avoid close friendships, stop it! You need people!

Daily, run a little check on your life with these three simple questions. Am I growing deep roots? Am I living in a healthy rhythm? Am I cultivating relationships? We need you to not burn out!

By the way, coaching can help!

Passionate Leadership Is Highly Biblical

BlazeOne of my favorite little Bible verses might seem somewhat obscure, but in its original language, it’s packed with meaning. Paul wrote to the Romans, “I am eager to come and preach the gospel to you…” (Romans 1:16) The word translated as eager comes from a compound Greek word that means “on heat,” or as we would say it today, Paul was on fire to preach!

Passion is a priceless aspect of leadership. It’s something that can be faked, but only temporarily. We can only keep up the facade of passion for something for so long before people begin to realize we aren’t quite as invested as we’ve acted. Real passion burns inside us. It flares up somewhat uncontrollably and makes us do crazy things, like go to new places with the gospel, get personally involved in the lives of hurting sinners, and push others around us forward even at the cost of our own comfort.

Real Passion Is Cultivated with Jesus

Passion can be derived from reading the latest church growth books, attending conferences, and listening to motivational tapes about leadership. But these generate but a flicker in comparison with the true source of passion in a Christian leader – time with Jesus. Luke records the experience of two apostles shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, “Back and forth they talked. ‘Didn’t we feel on fire as he (Jesus) conversed with us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?'” (Luke 24:32 MSG)

Real Passion Is Stimulated by the Holy Spirit

In other words, passion is ultimately cultivated deep within us over time as we get closer to Jesus. His Holy Spirit has a tendency to fan it into flame and keep it alive. I don’t think this has as much to do with a “Holy Ghost revival meetin'” where we all act a little crazy as it does a far more internal combustion in the heart of a believer that absolutely must come out in the form of influencing others with drive and energy.

Real Passion Is Contagious – It Moves Others

As my friend Neil Greenhaw has wisely said, “Passion is the thing in us that breeds followers. What we are truly passionate about, people tend to follow.” And it’s so true. People simply don’t follow passionless leaders, but where you find people following something as a crowd, big or small, you’ll always find a leader passionate enough to boldly invite and empower others for the cause.

Real Passion Is Evident In Our Extra Effort

Commitment will get the job done. Commitment is good. But passion goes further. Passion is what drives us to put in overtime in the areas of life that matter the most to us. Passionate marriages show the evidence of a man pursuing his wife with intentionality. Passionate businesses go the extra mile to provide top notch, beyond normal customer service. And passionate church leaders are always chasing the next possible way to fulfill the Great Commitment in each new generation.

Real Passion Is Rare

Talent is everywhere, whether it’s invested or wasted. But passionate people stand out. There are thousands of great baseball players hanging out on sandlots around the world, but those with real passion make it to “the show.” Great singers are hiding in neighborhoods everywhere, but passionate artists are heard on the radio. And passion isn’t handed out in small quantities. It’s cultivated by choice and determination. It’s yours to pursue as much as you want.

I think the world needs people with talent, charisma, money, charm, wisdom, and a plethora of other virtues and resources. But now, more than ever, the world needs people with real passion. Are you on fire?

photo credit: kaibara87

Pastor, If You Could Just Dance…

Looks Like a PastorMy friend, Chris Fleury, whom I met at Saddleback Church, posted this video from Belgium’s Got Talent. For some reason, when this guy walked out on stage I thought he looked like the typical American Pastor. What he did next was rather atypical. Just watch… then try it Sunday!

Disclaimer: If you are non-charismatic, I claim no responsibility for the results…

Need help getting started? Learn to break-dance street-style!