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Out-of-Gas Car, Out-of-Gas Pastor

Parts of this post are excerpts from the new book How to Pastor and Live to Tell About It: Lessons from Nehemiah. Today we pull back the curtain on exhausting times in the lives of a few pastors, which the rest of us usually don’t see. Names have been changed to protect their identity.

Out of necessity, ministers of small congregations wear many hats. This description aptly fit Pastor Jerry. Unwittingly, he trained his small flock to depend on him for nearly everything. If an elderly woman failed to get her car started, she called Pastor Jerry to come fix it. Did the church furnace malfunction? The elders knew Jerry could be counted on to tinker with it. Brother Leroy needed a haircut. He came by the parsonage on the pastor’s day off to ask for a free one.

This minister of many talents gladly helped his flock with their needs. However, he learned by painful experience what happens when the leader fails to delegate authority to others under his guidance. First, it deprives others of exercising their talents for God’s glory. Second, he experiences fatigue and burnout.

One incident became the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Harry, a middle-aged man, called an already-exhausted Pastor Jerry out of his warm bed on a cold night to see why his car wouldn’t start.

Finding the vehicle parked along the street in a crime-ridden big city, Jerry lifted the car’s hood and peered inside while cautiously glancing over his shoulder. He then crawled under the car to check for a possible leak in the gas tank. No problem there. The problem was Harry. He forgot to notice his gas gauge registered empty.

Fatigue And Frustration: Friends Of Your Enemies

Pastor Phil came home exhausted after a full day of visiting hospital patients. He had counseled a troubled family and also carried burdens for others in his congregation.

The weary minister kissed his wife and sighed. “I feel like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Every time I plug a leak, a new one pops out.”

Fatigue and burnout can happen to anyone involved in intense spiritual warfare or demanding mental and physical labor. Our minds and bodies are meant for regular rest and renewal. That is not always possible, however, when emergency situations present themselves.

John Wesley’s exhausting schedule could make today’s minister blush in embarrassment. Preaching at 4:30 a.m. after having personal devotions seems daunting, at the least. We need to realize, however, that those were the highlights of this great man’s schedule; they didn’t happen every day. Wesley wrote those accounts of his experiences to spur his ministers to selfless serving.

Wesley’s personal diary lends a refreshing perspective.

Like many others in his era, Wesley wrote the account of his everyday life in code. Fortunately, Dr. Richard Heitzenrater of the Perkins School of Theology managed to decipher Wesley’s complex code. Through it we see that Wesley didn’t set endurance records every single day. He did take time to rest.

Jesus reminded his followers in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Most of us think of a yoke as a wooden frame connecting oxen or other large animals when they plow a field.

However, the GNU Collaborative International Dictionary of English, tells us a yoke can be “as much land as may be plowed by a pair of oxen in a day.” (Thank you to our pastor for mentioning this.) Jesus may have been telling his followers they didn’t have to cram twenty hours of work into a twenty-four-hour time period.

The remainder of chapter eight in this book outlines solutions for overworked pastors.

This book available on Amazon.

What about you? Any words of commendation for your hard-working pastor? Tell us about it below.


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