Avoiding Pastoral Burnout

Ministry is difficult. Those of us who are pastors understand this. We have the responsibility of shepherding God’s people and live with the burden that one day we will stand before God and give an account of how we have stewarded this blessing (Heb. 13:17).

Consider this statistic provided by Pastoral Care, Inc. They reported that only one out of ten pastors will actually retire as a pastor.[1] Now, this may not describe you, your network of friends or your context, but one thing is true: pastoral ministry is difficult and, if we’re not careful, we can burn out.

It is a sad day when a pastor burns out and quits the work that he has been called to pursue. So we are left with the question, how can we avoid burnout? I believe that there are three practices that can fortify us as we seek to minister to God’s people.  

Focus on the Gospel

First, we must daily remind ourselves of the glorious truths of the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ is the anchor of our souls in the darkest of nights. When life is difficult and ministry is exhausting, let us be reminded that we are redeemed! We have been brought from death to life by the gracious work of God in our lives.

When we are tempted to meet the expectations of others, let us not forget who we are in Christ. In Ephesians 1:3-14, the Apostle Paul outlines the glorious spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. Let us meditate on these blessings daily. When others doubt us, judge us or condemn us, let’s cling to our identity in Christ.

Avoid Keeping Up with the Joneses

Second, we must not fall into the trap of comparison. I am constantly tempted to look at other churches and think, “Why can’t I have what they have?” I can even complain, “We’re being faithful. We’re following God’s Word. Why then, are we not growing the way that others are when some of those churches aren’t even faithful?”

Brother, listen to me: please don’t do this. God has a plan for you and for your church. We are not called to imitate others in our area – we are called to pattern our ministries according to God’s Word.

Our job is to be obedient to what God has called us to do and be content with leaving the results to Him. Therefore, let us not drift into thinking that pastors or programs are the agents of change. Only the Spirit of God can produce healthy change and growth in His body, and He will do it in His way and His time.

Be Faithful, Not Yielding

Third, let us not give up biblical convictions for worldly acceptance. It’s tempting to compromise for the sake of numbers. When ministry is difficult, we can adopt an “any means necessary” approach to filling the seats.

I recently heard someone say, “I want unbelievers to be comfortable in our church. Therefore, I adopt different methods for reaching them.” Look, I get it. But although I want unbelievers to feel welcome, I don’t want them to feel comfortable.

Unbelievers should walk into our services and be able to see that there is something unique about this body of people. It has been said, “What you win them with, you win them to.” May it never be said of us that we bargained away biblical fidelity for the sake of numbers. In a world of moral compromise, let us be different. Let us be faithful and holy.

Josh Chambers is the lead pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. He blogs regularly at https://thereformedlife.net. You can follow him on Instagram @jchambers5 and on Twitter @josh_chambers5.

[1] You can find the full list of statistics at https://www.pastoralcareinc.com/statistics/