Monday, June 27, 2011
I just read a stat that over 1800 pastors in one denomination in this country left the ministry last year. They didn't just change churches or go to work for other ministries, but they LEFT the ministry to seek something in the private sector. That's a bunch of folks. If we dig a bit deeper it seems to stem from burnout, but why? What is happening that keeps allowing ministry leaders to burnout? We have a great many resources (books, web, conferences, retreats, training, etc.) that are supposed to accomplish three things for them; refresh, re-energize, and retool. Unfortunately there is one aspect that is not being addressed; the paradigm of the church is broken.
There have been a vast number of books written lately that address this broken paradigm. Radical, Crazy Love, Hole in our Gospel, UnChristian, etc. have all addressed the idea that we are stuck in a mind-set that allows me to sit in the pews (or whatever your seating set up is), write a check, and let the staff do the work of the church. In our consumeristic culture that paradigm makes total sense. It is based on the postmodern idea that it is all about MY experience that matters. Jean Twenge in a book called, Generation Me, even addresses how the ideas have shifted in our call to missions. She points out that church messages used to be, "go on a mission trip and bless others." Then it shifted to, "go on a mission trip, bless others and you will be blessed." Finally it became, "go on a mission trip, be blessed and by the way others will be blessed." That demonstrates a radical shift in thinking. Seems so subtle doesn't it?
So how does this impact ministry leaders? What we appear to be doing, is lifting them out of their mild burnout, patching them up, and sending them back into the same old paradigm that continues to burn them out. Scriptures don't point to that model in any way, shape or form. 2 Timothy 2:2 reflects upon the fact that it is essential to equip leaders to be facilitators of those in the church to DO the work of the church. "...and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (vs. 2).
Rest and recovery is an important aspect of leadership, no doubt. But in the work of the church, I contend that we must find a better way to equip the leaders to lead us, not do the work for us. Leads must find ways to be trained in how to help the church change that paradigm. We need to find those that are doing it well and let them coach the rest of us.
Changing paradigms is tough work. Let us encourage those that lead us, by allowing them to change our paradigms. Jesus didn't do the work of the church. He did His part (to be read, uniquely qualified to do those things alone) but then sent others to lead, facilitate and equip others. Leadership 222 - the next course we all should sign up for!