As I sit in my home office, enjoying an excellent cup of coffee and listening to Shane & Shane, I sense my deep need for gospel renewal and revival in my heart. Some would hear this and say, “Doug, why? What’s going on with you? Are you okay?”
At 50 years of age and 25 years in ministry, I’m learning that feeling worn down is an everyday reality of managing the load of ministry the Lord has given me. In 2015, the San Antonio Spurs basketball coach used the term « load management » for strategically resting key players to be in premier shape for the championship game at the end of the year. In the same way, Christ’s leaders need to adopt this load management strategy.
Load management wisdom is necessary as I serve my church, network, and seminary. I must set a ministry pace and even learn to bench myself when I’m weary. If not, I may not have the endurance to serve for the entire season to which God calls me.
Ministry burnout often exposes multiple areas of unhealthiness. Porn addiction, over-eating, adultery, depression, sinful anger, drunkenness, suicide, and ministry disqualification are often revealed in the leader walking in ministry burnout. It can even cause a leader to quit the ministry and abandon Jesus altogether.
Therefore, when I sit at the edge of ministry exhaustion, I go to God’s Word, the fountain of inexhaustible knowledge, to prevent me from crossing the bridge into ministry burnout or ministry overload.
Humble Yourselves Under God
The Apostle Peter says God’s leaders must « Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6–7). This passage is rich with strategies for ministry load management. The primary method for managing your ministry load and avoiding ministry exhaustion is to humbly submit your life, ministry, and everything you are and do under the mighty hand of God. When I sit at the edge of ministry exhaustion, I go to God's Word, the fountain of inexhaustible knowledge, to prevent me from crossing the bridge into ministry burnout or ministry overload. Click To Tweet
Humility is the essential element for ministry load management. Here, the phrase « humble yourselves » is a rebuke to those leaders who seek to walk under their prideful arrogance and plans. Proverbs 3:34 makes God’s posture toward self-reliant, prideful people clear: God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Why is he opposed to the proud? Because human pride is the antithesis of submission to God and salvation in his name through Christ. Therefore, leaders are required to « humble themselves » as they recognize their need for God’s ministry load management plan.
We must learn how to govern our own ministry load management; your team is rarely going to tell you to slow down. You have to learn how to say « no » on your own. Often, our inability to say “no” is our idolatry of wanting to be the Messiah for our churches. And if we’re unwilling to humble ourselves and govern our ministry load, then God, as a good Father, will himself humble us. God will not allow his leader to go unchecked when they lead their families and his church in their own strength. So then, we must learn to humble ourselves before God must humble us—to walk not in the pride of pastoral professionalism, but rather rest under the mighty umbrella of Jesus’s grace.
The beautiful promise is that God will exalt us in his perfect timing when we humble ourselves under his gospel. Yes, how crazy that God will lift us up. It is his mighty hand that does the lifting of the humble, near burnt-out leader.
Cast Your Anxieties on God
We rightly manage our ministry load as we walk in humility, powered by God’s strength and grace and not falsely fueled by our bootleg power. Note that in the NBA, it’s the coaches, not the players, who control the key player’s load. So it is with God. We receive our instruction from him, not from those around us who call us to do more, more, more. In a culture where everybody wants to debate, divide, and do more, Peter calls God's leaders to cast their cares upon Jesus. Click To Tweet
In a culture where everybody wants to debate, divide, and do more, Peter calls God’s leaders to cast their cares upon Jesus. The word « cast » means “to throw from one place to another. » In ministry load management, this is the divine transfer whereby leaders get the load off themselves and onto Jesus because we’re incapable of carrying it.
Load management is modeled and powered by Christ in all that we do and are. This is most vividly seen in Christ on the cross, having all our sins cast upon him, that he might bear the load of sin that would have led to our destruction. He has already borne our sin, so go ahead and throw your cares on Jesus! Cast your desperation, despair, discontentment, distress, depression, and your feelings of desertion and degradation.
Throw them off yourself and onto Christ’s burden-carrying back. You can’t take the weight, but he can. And while the cross shows that Jesus bears our loads on his shoulders, the resurrection proves that he doesn’t just lift our loads, he has overcome them on our behalf!
Because God Cares for You
When you operate under God’s ministry load management plan, you cast your anxieties, stress, and discontentment on him. Why? Because he cares for you. We don’t throw it on him to increase our ministry capacity. No! We throw it on him because he cares for us.
He’s the great Coach who knows when to bench you and play you fewer minutes. He’s the pioneer and perfecter of ministry load management. Submit to him. He will keep you to the end. Rest knowing that the championship—the great victory of the ages—has been won by Christ. Repent of your prideful overwork in ministry and embrace Christ managing your load for you, not by your gifts but by his grace.
Lord, help us see the pitfalls of ministry overload and help us find our ministry load management plan from you.