The Rhythm of Rest, The Malaise of Ministry

Tuesday Re-mix –

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31

The sending out of the twelve in Mark 6 was the disciples’ first real taste of ministry.  Up until then, Jesus alone bore the burden of having crowds pressing in around him with their pains and brokenness.  But for this short time, Jesus filled the disciples with the miraculous powers of the Spirit.  Suddenly, they were casting out demons, healing the sick, speaking amazing words of wisdom and drawing the crowds.  Quite apart from Jesus, each of the disciples were, for the first time, feeling the long hours of bearing the burdens of broken people following them all day long insisting on miracles and healings and words of wisdom.  For the first time, the disciples had to deal with the utter exhaustion of personal ministry.  No surprise, then, that Jesus addressed their exhaustion when they gathered back together for their debriefing.  Jesus’ very first words to them were words of wisdom to every pastor and minister today…

Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Every leader in the church, EVERY LEADER, must take seriously these words from Christ.

Even the secular world has figured out this eternal truth.  Nobody wants a surgeon operating on them when that surgeon is in a state of exhaustion.  Nobody wants a pilot flying their airplane when that pilot is sleep deprived.  Nobody wants truck drivers operating 18-wheelers on our highways when they are falling asleep at the wheel.  When none of us in our right minds would trust our physical well-being to an exhausted person, why do we trust our Spiritual well-being in the hands of an exhausted minister?  More importantly, why, when we are the minister, would we think we can minister effectively when we are at the end of our rope physically?

I could fill this blog with true stories I have seen or heard about pastors burning their candle at both ends until they reach a point of burnout and end up doing serious damage to themselves, their families and even their congregants.  You see, when our physical labor is ineffective because we are too tired, well, that’s just a waste of time and effort.  But when MINISTRY is ineffective because the minister is physically spent, it is more than just a waste…it is harmful.  Significant emotional and spiritual damage can occur.  That, I believe, is why Jesus demonstrated for the disciples the need for rest even in ministry.  Without rest, without emotional regeneration and physical restoration, even our Spiritual gifts become ineffective.

My pastor pulls away several times a year for just a day or two of quiet and solitude and prayer.  I LOVE that he does that.  I am convinced that his emotional stability and his effectiveness as a pastor depend on it.  In fact, I am convinced that is true of every church leader.

So pastors, ministers, leaders…take a break, won’t you?  Seriously.

© Blake Coffee
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2 responses to “The Rhythm of Rest, The Malaise of Ministry”

  1. Blake there are some really good reasons why we don’t rest and they run very deep. Part of it is due to the our “philosophy of ministry” and part of it is to do with the kinds of churches we run, some is due to congregations expectations and some is what we put on ourselves.

    For example, we demand extremely high volunteer commitment and attendance levels, so some pastor’s I know of, continued to attend their church even while they were on leave. Stupid I know.

    Others take little of their leave because they feel like God is promising them a “breakthrough” and that they’re in a season of sowing etc. and to take a break would somehow be unfaithful, or faithless and result in not getting the “miracle” they’re expecting.

    Our business-styled contemporary churches run off the CEO charismatic pastor model. He’s the Steve Jobs of his little patch. Everything revolves around him. He is the vision caster, the primary voice – the lynch pin if you like. We don’t like to admit it but it’s true. When he’s out of the picture the church is just in a holding pattern. No-one likes to work hard to build, then take time off and see things possibly decline. It’s a function of the model we’ve chosen.

    So I guess I’m saying, it’s good to know that we need time off, but there are very deep reasons why pastor’s are expiring at a rate of 1500 each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure according to New York Times 2010 and it’s not for a lack of knowledge about rest.

  2. […] and church mediator Blake Coffee (great name) recently blogged “Nobody wants a surgeon operating on them when that surgeon is in a state of exhaustion. […]

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