Heading Towards Burnout

I love preaching.  I really do.  I remember where I was when God first starting stirring up my soul to preach (Camp Wesley Pines) and I remember where I was when I accepted that call (Gulfshore Baptist Assembly).  There were times in ministry thus far when I wished God have released me, but He wouldn’t.  God has confirmed over and again to me His calling.

That said, 2014 was a tough year for me in many ways.  Now God did some great things in our church last year, we have had a several good years of stable, consistent growth, and we are seeing Asbury really begin to blossom and grow within our community and world.  Ministries are being established; individuals are growing, children, youth, and adults are being baptized, the Word is going forth.  God has been good.

But, last year was a tough year for me personally.  I had some issues from my past creep up.  Many of you may be familiar with my story of my biological mother being murdered when I was two years old and being raised by my grandparents.  My biological father (the man who murdered my mother) contacted me this past year.  This was the first time I’ve heard from him in my adult life.  I have spent so much of my ministry teaching and trying to model forgiveness and grace. I thought I had forgiven him.  But when he contacted me, that challenged so many things in my life, in my heart, in my soul.

I had to battle with a real hatred in my soul, that I wasn’t sure I could contain.  I’m better now than I was last year. But I’m still working on it.

So, that put me in a tough frame of mind going into the year.

And I always knew that the growth of Asbury would eventually outpace our resources and infrastructure.  Last year it happened.  I also, being a perfectionist, like to have my fingers in everything.  And as much as we’ve grown, as much as we do, I became totally overwhelmed by that.

I also struggled with how to communicate effectively with staff.  I so don’t want to be a dictator pastor, I welcome differences of opinions and conversation.  But, sometimes I would leave people on an island by not communicating well.  Then I would not be happy when things weren’t done as I would do them or when balls would get dropped.  But the bed of frustration I was sleeping in was a bed that I had made.

And in my arrogance and pride, I often feel like folks aren’t as dedicated to the church as I am.  I felt a sense or resentment beginning to build up in me with my staff and my church.

I also took on too many teaching and preaching tasks.  Towards the end of last year, I was teaching two 3-hour Disciple Bible studies on Sunday and Monday, a Tuesday morning small group, a Wednesday night Bible study, as well as preaching twice on Sunday’s.  As well as other community involvement, and being active in the district and state church.

Oh and I was the tech guy for the church as well. As well as doing the pastoral care and tending to the infrastructure of the church.

An unlit and burnt matches in a rowIn short, by the end of 2014, I was completely and totally exhausted.  My health was a mess.  I was withdrawing from my wife and children, I was coming home from church and just going to bed.  I found myself withdrawing from other friends as well.

I was also a terrible leader towards my church and my staff.  The best way I can describe it is the more exhausted I became, the more I focused on the small things I felt as though I had control over.  So, I became consumed with the small things.  And I became so focused on moving the chairs around the deck that I was unable to steer the ship

In short, I was heading towards burnout.  Heading fast.

And I didn’t want to see that happen.  So, I made a promise to myself to change in 2015.  I have no control over others.  But I do over myself.  So, I made the decision to change this year.

My wife reminds me all the time that I’m not the Holy Spirit.  It’s not my job to change or fix others.  That’s God’s. And see, here’s the thing.  Each of these issues, the issue is with me.  Not others.  Not my church.  Not my staff.  Not anyone.  Me.  The issues are mine and mine alone.  And I’ve got to work on fixing me.

What am I doing different this year?

The first thing I’m doing is I have come to realize, after many years of trying, that I just can’t do it all. I just can’t.  My first move is to start letting go of some things.  How?  Two ways  – first, I am empowering our staff and committees to do their jobs.  By not doing that, I overwhelmed me and didn’t allow them to serve in the way that God wants. Second, I am working more clarity of communication of expectations.  I’ve got to better let folks know what needs to be done.

Second, I realized I don’t need know all the small details.  I don’t have to know every last detail of every last thing going on in the church.  I don’t.  That bogged me down.   Someone should know, but not me

ThirdI am working seeing the big picture.  I like to talk about how one of the best ways to understand scripture is to not get bogged down in all the details.  We need to look at the big picture. That’s what happened to me. I’m not going to let that happen again.  I’m doing my best to keep my eye on the big picture.

Fourth – I am exercising and trying to eat better.  I know everyone says it.  I know.  But you know what I’ve found out this year?  It actually works.  I have more energy now than I did when I was drinking Death Ader energy drinks.

And lastI am working on staying positive.  When I get tired and stressed, I get very negative.  I never see the good.  Only what’s wrong.  That’s not helpful to me, to my family, to my church.  I’ve got to take care of myself and stay positive. That’s the only way I can lead.  How am I doing that?

This is most important.  I am not forgetting to tend to my soul.  I can’t shepherd others if I am letting my heart be tended to by the Good Shepherd.

Thus far, 22 days in 2015, I feel the best I’ve felt in years.  My desire to keep this going so I can be as faithful to God, and love my family, as much as I can be!

Being a Pastor versus Being a Son

I’ve had the chance the past few months to put on some different shoes.

As a pastor I’ve very used to the hospital.  I’ve spent time visiting in Jackson, in Memphis, in Tupelo and in nearly every every major hospital in Mississippi.

But, in past few months, I’ve had a different perspective.  My mom has had to undergo a couple of surgeries.  Nothing major, thankfully, but she’s been in the hospital more the past few months than at any point in my life.

And, mama is also 80.  I was raised by my grandparents (long story) and they are in great health. But, 80 is 80 and when she is put to sleep, I’ll be honest if you don’t start getting nervous.

So, for the first in my life, I’ve come to the hospital in a different position.  Not as a patient.  Not as a pastor. But, as a son.

I like being a pastor much, much better.

Maybe it’s just want I’m used to.  Now, there are advantages in being just a son. For instance, I didn’t shave today. Also, I’m wearing blue jeans and my favorite Ole Miss pull over.  I forgot my hat at home, or I’d be wearing a hat too.  So, I’m pretty comfortable.

And, there is that feeling about not worrying about others. When you are pastor, your concern is your church member. How are they?  Do they need anything?  Do you need to lift their spirits?  Pray?  Quote scripture?

Today, I’ve watched part of the Cotton Bowl, read the paper, checked my email. Blogged (what I’m doing right now).

I haven’t had to worry about providing care to anyone.

And, that’s the problem.  As a pastor, I have something to do.  A job.  A purpose.  I can be helpful.

As a son, I feel helpless.  Sure, I can pray like I always do.  I can stay busy.  I can do lots.  But, it’s different.

As a son, I wait.  I fret.  I worry.  I pace.

As a pastor, I’m calm and relaxed. Confident.

As a son.  I worry.

I really do love what I am called to do and who I’m called to be.  And, I know as a son the things that I know as a pastor.  I know God is at work, God is here, God’s grace is always there.

But, I get so busy taking care of others that I don’t have to worry about things myself.

And, perhaps, it’s not just preachers that do that. Perhaps we get so busy living life that we can forget to remember things we know.

God is good. God is at work. God is here, even know.

So, the pastor and son are not that different. And maybe, just maybe, we all have that same battle within us.

And, maybe, just maybe, God understands, knows, and loves us anyway.