It’s a common assumption; you and I have heard it before. We get tired of the exhausting work of ministry and, understandably, we want to take a break. If the church members can’t carry the load, then there is always the pastor and his family. I mean, he gets paid, right? So it’s his job!
To be clear, I do believe God tells us to take a break, to get some rest, and to recharge our soul so that we can get back to serving Him with our whole heart. But there’s a clear biblical problem with assuming that, if the church is unable to do the work of the ministry, the pastor should pick up the slack because he gets paid. What does the Bible have to say about it?
In 1 Peter 5:2 church leaders are told to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” The problem with assuming that pastors should pick up the ministry slack because they get paid is that the Bible clearly tells pastors not to do the work of ministry for “shameful gain.” They are not “under compulsion” by some external force, whether it be money, man’s praise, or otherwise. None of us want our pastors unfairly swayed by every person’s opinion who walks into church, but how many of us assume money is the motivating factor? It is dangerous to base the motivation for ministry on money, very dangerous.
Yes, the “laborer deserves his wages” (1 Timothy 5:18), and yes, “the elders who rule well” should “be considered worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17). But pastors do not minister because they are paid. They do it “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). Growth in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the health of His body, the church, are the motivating factors. Pastors are called to equip the church for every member ministry, not for pew sitters. Pastors work for the glory of God and the equipping of His church, not a stash of cash.
And the same is true for every church member. While not every member is qualified for church leadership, every member ought to be striving for the qualities required of church leadership. No pastor has the option of being greedy in the ministry, and no layperson has the option of setting aside their gifts for the ministry.
Burnout, at it’s heart, is a desire problem. For one reason or another, you have lost the will to continue serving (big red flag!). So the next time you feel burned out in ministry, and you want to throw in the towel, try something else. Go to your pastor (or his wife), and instead of informing him of your resignation, ask him how he handles the pressures of ministry without burning out. How does he handle the feelings of inadequacy that flood his heart when trying to carry out a task he feels completely unqualified for? What gospel graces motivate him to press on in the daily grind and pressures of real life ministry? Because, trust me, no one understands better than he does.
Chances are you will have done two very important things. You will greatly encourage your pastor who rarely experiences this kind of grace-infused conversation (and probably expected the opposite conversation), and you will grow to a new depth of spiritual maturity you never thought possible. Maybe, just maybe, your pastor needs the same kind of rescue you are searching for. In which case, you won’t just be helping your own soul, you’ll be helping your pastor and the entire church. Can you imagine it? Only God could use ministry burnout as a means of enabling your pastor to fulfill his calling. What a privilege, and what a delight, to be a tool in God’s hands!