Avoiding ministry burnout

Ever heard of Perspectives? For years, I’ve heard stories of life-change from anyone lucky enough to take this rich, intensive 15-week course on missions. We have a joke that no one can talk about Perspectives without using the word “perspective”…because, well, a new perspective on missions, on God and even–or especially–their own relationship to Him is what everyone leaves with.



 
So when hubby and I started Perspectives this spring, I was expecting to be changed on a global scale for global mission. But this was different. This was much closer to home.
 
Somewhere in Lesson 2, I arrived at the article by Tim Dearborn entitled “Beyond Duty”. He wrote about the tendency for many churches and mission agencies to motivate people into missions using “bad news”.  It all sounded so familiar:
 
Statistics of the hundreds of thousands dying without Christ.
Photos of malnourished children in Sudan.
Overwhelming numbers of martyrs dying each year for their faith…
and on and on.
 
Not only did it remind me of sermons and mission conferences, it reminded me of my own prayers in the past: full of heavy tears and a crushing burden for the lost and broken.
 
In Dearborn’s own words, I had “worked myself into exhaustion with exhortations to give more, do more, be more, care more, serve more, love more, sacrifice more,” but I always ended by feeling hopelessly inadequate for the task.
 
Because of course, I was.
 
And then, this:

“Mission is ultimately not a human response to human need. …Lack of interest in mission…is best remedied by intensifying people’s passion for Christ, so that the passions of his heart become the passions that propel our hearts.”

 

Wait, mission is not human response to human need? *mind blown*
 
As I sat with highlighter poised, God began to clarify truth even beyond what Dearborn had written. Human-centered motivations, because they originate in finite humans, will always be limited. No matter how earnest my compassion, no matter how much I immerse myself in knowledge of the world’s needs, no matter how much zeal I fan into flame with my own will, it will all fall flat eventually because I myself am finite.
 
An Infinite Source is needed.
 
Suddenly He whisperered to my exhausted heart. Cherise, this is part of why you felt burned-out in your homegroup.
 
Me: Ohhhhhhhhh.
 
I realized that I had served and lead from a dry well of self-generated desires and passions to serve human needs rather than from a simple, pure desire to love and please my Father. When the people I served became hard to love or did not return my friendship, I fizzled. I was counting on my own compassion and love to sustain me, but (shocker!) it proved a poor source for long-term sustainability.
 
It turns out that the same incomplete motivations for global mission are just as incomplete on the home-front.
 
BUT there is a higher motive that is a deep well, never running dry! It has nurtured and upheld missionaries in generations past, enabling them to give and serve for years without thanks, without praise, without the support of community or the comforts of home.
 
It is this: The glory of His Name. His honor. God receiving the praise He deserves.
 
If I live for His praise, I won’t be living for mine (and won’t be crushed when I don’t receive it.)
 
I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be a lesson learned over and over. 
 

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