Tuesday, September 15, 2009

from busy to burnout

I think God might be trying to tell me something. the cover story on seveeral Christian magazines have been about "Running on Empty" and avoiding ministry fatigue. The topic at a recent Senior Pastors' gathering was dealing with burnout. And, a friend recently confessed that he was in a fog with so much ministry.

So, last Sunday evening, I talked briefly with our ministry leaders about burnout. When we "burn the candle at both ends," we're liable to find the flame of ministry eventually snuffed out completely. Through my conversation with other ministry leaders and some research on the topic, I presented the following 10 Symptoms of Ministry Burnout:

1. Longing for “greener grass”-- Desire for a new ministry, new community, or a new church.
2. Dream of escape --Desperately needing to get away. You spend more and more time scanning the Travel section of your newspaper.
3. Anger and cynicism --Conversely, a lack of humor.
4. Increased addictions -- To fill the voids in life, you busy yourself with other distractions. television and Internet are often the worst culprits.
5. Lack of joy in your calling -- You no longer delight in or get excited about successes.
6. Task-orientation -- With an increasing feeling of hopelessness and failure, you begin attending to tasks to “get something done."
7. Loss of creativity and newness -- Your mind shuts down to new ideas and creation.
8. Isolation -- The fear of being exposed causes you to retreat from community.
9. Neglected responsibilities -- What you used to do naturally, you now forget.
10. Unhappy spouse -- Your unhappiness and discontent are mirrored in your mate.

Truth is, we all can experience some of these challenges during the best of times in life. But, when several of these show up in my soul, I need to take inventory to see if I'm about to go down in flames.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

fellowship of the unashamed

I recently heard the testimony of a very brave teenage girl who stood resolutely for Christ. On her Facebook page, she posted the following quote originally written by Dr. Bob Moorehead:

I am a part of the fellowship of the Unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slowdown, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.

I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned back, diluted,or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, back up, let up, or shut up until I've preached up, prayed up, paid up, stored up, and stayed up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until He returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear for "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16)

Friday, September 4, 2009


[NOTE: This is the final post in a series of entries intending to help readers learn how to study their Bible.]

For those following this series of posts, I have very briefly touched on 3 steps of effective Bible study: Preparation, Observation and Interpretation. Preparation puts me in line with God's Holy Spirit so that I can discern spiritual things. Observation is the discipline to "search out" the details in a text. Interpretation is the business of making sense of what I see. But, my study is complete only when I apply what I have learned.

Two key texts come to mind when I think about this principle of Application. In Luke 6:46, Jesus asks, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" His point, of course, is that submitting to Jesus as "Master" requires not just understanding what He teaches, but doing it. Similarly, James highlights the foolishness of observation and interpretation without application:

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does." [James 1:22-25]

The key word in this text is "do"--intentional application of what we learn. In fact, James explains, to read and study the Bible without applying truth is like looking at ourselves in the mirror and walking away without correcting our problem. Just as mirrors and designed for self-improvement, so the Bible is designed to change our lives.

Howard Hendricks, distinguished professor at Dallas Theological Seminary writes, "Interpretation without application is abortion of God's Word." He goes on to highlight 4 "substitutions" that we may be tempted to make:

1. We substitute interpretation for application.
Disciples feel that if they understand a passage, they have mastered its content.

2. We substitute superficial obedience for substantive life-change.
Disciples come to believe that if they begin to apply the scripture or demonstrate a life which may only hint at intended change, they have accomplished the intent of a text.

3. We substitute rationalization for repentance.
Namely, we explain away our sin, our complacency, our refusal to be more than mere hearers of the Word. We give excuses as to why a text doesn't exactly apply to us.

4. We substitute emotional experience for a volitional decision.
Our excitement about a text or our passion about its implication becomes the end result of our study. While we might be emotionally captivated by spiritual truth, we are nonetheless unchanged.

True application is a change in our lives: a change in what we believe, in what we feel or in how we live. The Bible is designed to transform our mind, our heart and our behavior. So, once we discover what a text means to the original audience, we must decide what implication it has for us personally. The following is a list of questions to ask as we work to apply God's Word:

1. Is there an example for me to follow?
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
3. Is there a promise to claim?
4. Is there a prayer to repeat?
5. Is there a condition to meet?
6. Is there a verse to memorize?
7. Is there an error to note?
8. Is there a challenge to face?

Today, you might print this list and tuck it inside your Bible as a reminder to not only be hearers of the Word, but doers as well. I pray that your study of the Scriptures yields great fruit for life transformation.