From the Elephant Room website:
How can a pastor effectively manage the pressures of ministry? What are the warning signs for burnout? What do you see pastors doing today that is most detrimental to their marriage and children? What about pastors who are unmarried? What single action is most healing to your emotional health in ministry—and what action is most damaging? How does the care of your own soul affect the relationships that matter most?
Session 3 - Hard Day’s Night
Cordeiro, MacDonald, Driscoll
Talking to the guy who wrote the book on this, Leading on Empty. How do you get burned out in Hawaii? (Laughter) How did you get burned out? You’re happy.
How can you be burned out in Hawaii? That’s a great questions. Every single one of us is susceptible to burn out. I didn’t even know it was happening. It just nailed me.
You catch things along the way. I’m sick of people’s problems.
That’s a warning sign? (Laughter)
I was jogging and I thought what in the world is going on. Something on the inside was breaking.
When you’re in the ministry, you can’t stop the train. So you just grit your teeth. The problem is that which fuels you on the inside will destroy you. I began to run on adrenaline. I started having anxiety attacks.
How many miles were you jogging?
You can be healthy bodily, but it’s about emotional health.
If you don’t take a sabaddical you get a forced one.
My priorities switched. It used to be God, family, self. Now it’s God, self, family. Because when you’re healthy everything else will be.
You think I have to put myself last as a Christian. I knew that if I didn’t work on myself, I would just deplete.
I thought my capability was equal to my calling. Wrong. My capacity was equal to my mission. Wrong.
A lot of people might sin where they don’t obey. I sin by doing what God didn’t ask me to do. Pharisees did that. They saw a law and when way beyond it. The devil doesn’t care what side of the boat you go off…just that you go off.
In the end, God is not going to hold me accountable for what I’ve done but how much I did that he asked me to do.
Discuss the difference between calling and compulsion. What does it look like to be aware and to make changes.
It’s tough. “I could have saved one more marriage.”
Maybe one today but maybe not a bunch tomorrow because of burn out.
Link four or five successes together and you think you’re superman. We don’t forget that we’re pastors, we forget we’re human. You put on a superman suit and you even sleep in it.
People need a hero. You think I’m not a good hero if I’m hurt. So you push through and shut down.
Every leader feels trapped at times. The more responsibility the more pressure to push it.
One symptom is the joy is gone. I still preach but don’t enjoy it. The devil can’t steal my marriage, so he still the joy of being married and I give it up. He can’t steal the joy of ministry, so he steals the joy and I give up ministry myself.
The only way I can get out of ministry is die I sometimes thought.
I’ve seen some guys step on a moral land mine to get out. So they would kick them out and not take back.
When I was in a depressive state, the only thing I could think was when can I retire. I just wanted out. That took me into a deep depression.
I’m out of it now, but I can still feel the bark of the trees on my back.
What did that do to your wife?
My wife is fabulous. You can’t publicize burn out. I understood Jesus in Gethsamane.
I went through two periods where I thought I’d quit. 1998 with church growing. Church gave us a gracious break and I went to figure out how to get out. I felt I’d neglected my soul. I didn’t understand God as my strength. I got refueled.
I came back and really hit the ground hard. I got to the point where it wasn’t a spiritual solution, but rather I was an unhealthy person. My way of relating to elders and staff was unhealthy. A report happened and came back that I bore the weight of every problem.
We had to make changes and I had to make myself really accountable to our leaders.
Which one of those was it more for you?
When you go through this you have to ask for help. Someone that is objective. An old saying, “The eye cannot see the eye.”
Pride has to be dashed and your ego has to be depleted. Humility is huge.
God is huge. I’m flying in the air on a plane having fun and you’re not thinking about God. Suddenly it starts to go down and everyone is ready to talk about God. Now, let’s say the plane is pulled back up. God said, don’t forget when the plane almost went down. Remember the lessons.
What happens when the plane crashes?
Usually the plan crashes when people bail out. God will never let go of your hand. If the plane crashes, somewhere you let go of God’s hand, he did not let go of yours.
Let’s take it to the bullpen.
Bishop Jakes, I’d love it if you go first. There’s not a man in this room who carries the weight you do.
First, I’m awed by how eloquently this issue has been addressed.
Sometimes we focus so much on who we are and what we have that we lose sight that we are brothers. Last night we realized we’re all similar when it comes to pressure and stress.
Many times we’re so busy taking the oxygen mask and putting it on the passengers and forget about ourselves.
The tragedy is that the pastor’s scream is a silent one. A tormented should so fixed on a hero complex that we don’t get to be the recipient.
We have not be taught or given permission to scream. Whatever we’re going through we swallow it until we go under. Then all the sharks come out. The whole church comes out to watch the lynching.
We’re seeing it more and more because our world is getting faster and faster. The pressure is mounting.
I applaud this conversation.
Furtick, pressures from technology.
My wife the other day was get off twitter. I said I wanted to but there is so much good stuff that I don’t want to leave behind. People were saying good things through hashtags and that would fill me up. Then one bad thing would punch a whole.
I’m personally in an unhealthy place and blessed to hear this conversation. I’m too concerned with opinions of others. I’m thankful the Lord is letting me get wisdom here. I probably need to drop a registration fee on the way out.
He’ll steal your joy and get you to give up yourself. That’s big to me.
I’m praying and trying to figure out to how to keep my joy.
Every one of us has to give somebody permission to speak into my life.
Everybody needs somebody to look you in the face, however, even permission doesn’t give courage. You need to continually remind that we’re all hurt if they don’t do this for you.
Very few men of God create a platform of total transparency. The truth is that if I were neglecting my wife, my best friend wouldn’t know it because we are always so camera ready that we’ll have a smile.
In addition to have someone we can be transparent with, we must practice telling the truth.
It’s easy to preach the truth because we can hide behind it and not be truthful ourselves.
You don’t crash outwardly, you crash inwardly.
Do I have a person? A place and time? And the language to come out from behind the curtain and show you who I really am?
It’s hard because you sometimes don’t know whom to trust.
When we limit our associations to other pastors, it’s difficult to critique yourself. I like to have a plethora of relationships that do not compete with me but rather complete me.
Everything you say is right when you’re in the Grand Canyon.
What’s the best thing a wife can do to prevent her husbands burnout?
Allow him to be himself at home. Deb has been great in that she’s never let me get away with trying to be something that I’m not.
Your wife should be your #1 accountability person. But that can be a problem because our wives are not equipped to handle all the pressure of ministry. Constantly dumping that can cause her to want to give up.
What happens is that kids and wives see a different person in the pulpit than at home. You want them to say that they were the same in both places.
This is a liberating conversation. When I went through burn out, I thought I was the only one who ever did. I thought I was weak.
Deb was so great to care for me and nurture me but at the same time say I needed to go talk to somebody. It was humbling and one of the best things I ever did.
Anyone listening and feeling this, don’t be so proud that you can’t go get help.
Notable biblical figures went through this. Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah…
One thing for me, is I told Grace I needed her to be my friend. I asked here to stop asking what I was doing and start asking how I was doing. That changed the direction of the conversation.
How long should a pastor take a sabbatical?
It varies and there’s not an easy answer. I want to answer a related question. Wayne, I feel that some of us who mentor young leaders are complicit in this. We spend on leadership and strategy at conferences. We need to talk more about leadership development and brokenness.
We need to understand our need for the Lord and keep a distance on what I do and what I am.
You’re identity is not your ministry. Sounds like a cliche and can be. God’s been hitting a straight lick with a crooked stick for years. We got to stop looking at ourselves in the mirror and singing How Great Thou Art.
We’ve done a disservice to young leaders. They want principles for performance. The truth of the matter is God just breathed on us.
Start learning to listen to the Holy Spirit.
I feel compelled, Pastor Wayne, to have you pray in closing.
The preceeding were summary notes from the Elephant Room. These are not direct quotes but rather a play by play intended to give an overview of each conversation at this year's event. I encourage you to watch this year's conversations once available for fullest context. - Jake