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Flame Out

Bernadette O’Shea

It can happen to the best of us. Pressure and stress can consume the lives of ministry leaders. The heat builds and builds until exhaustion and burnout set in. How is it that people give their all to serve God just to end up having their lives destroyed by the good things they're trying to accomplish? They had good motives and great intentions. Where did it get them? Wasn't their call to ministry legitimate? Is this what God called them to do-burn out and suffer?

Often times Christ-followers have a romantic idea of what life in ministry is like. We see ministry leaders and believe they have it all together based only on seeing them once a week for maybe an hour or two. Let's be honest… any of us can put up a front for that amount of time.

There's no shame in admitting that you're running on empty. In my personal journey with ministry, I became a victim to burnout. I believed my service was a reflection of my relationship with Christ. I wanted to give back to God for everything he did for me. I started serving at 110 percent and didn't allow myself to slow down and recover. I finally realized that this thinking voids what Christ did on the cross. If I have to give back to God, then Christ's death was in vain.

As it was for me, it's easy to miss the smoke signals that appear before an emotional inferno. Spot these four warning signs that burnout is near-to save yourself a lot of pain.

Sign 1

You Can't Say No
Many people feel guilty for saying no to church responsibilities. Are you a "serve-aholic" who can't say no to any request no matter how full your plate is? We ministry folk tend to let our serving be the thermostat to measure our commitment to Christ. We can struggle with wanting to prove our value to those in leadership. However, saying yes too often can quickly lead to burnout.

Jesus told us what's most important in Luke 10:27: " 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " God doesn't want to share us. Jesus reminds us of the boundaries to set for ourselves about how to love and serve God. We're to love God first, then our neighbor. Keeping God #1 is essential. We have to line up what we're doing with how it's affecting our relationship with God.

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