I am privileged that over the years I have had people ask me to be their mentor in a variety of areas. Some have asked me to be their accountability partner, others to meet on a regular time and pray, and others to be available for them to debrief and then there are others who just need someone who will sit and listen to their story, without passing judgement or wanting advice.
Recently I was speaking to someone who is facing burn out. There are many issues in this persons life. Grief from the death of a parent, low energy levels from a bout of glandular fever, loneliness, stresses and strains of work and a lack of what is perceived to be pastoral support at church.
We spoke about the issues of busyness in the church and the possibility of finding another church was brought up. The discussion then centred on the right reasons for leaving and what processes would be put into place for finding another church fellowship which would be suitable for the current needs.
We spoke about Elijah and how he was a mighty man of God. He did great things for God. Yet he also faced and experienced burnout. It only took one word from a enemy to be the last straw for him and he turned and ran away from it all. He ended up in a remote cave and in this cave he met with the Lord who ministered to him over a period of time, strengthening him once again for ministry.
There are many people within our congregations who live busy and stressful lives. Their work may involve giving out of themselves within a teaching, caring, nursing, management, policing, counselling, family or many other areas of life. For them, they have no energy to get involved with another program at church. They look forward to the service to sit down, sigh and go blat and rest in God’s presence and be strengthened to continue on into the week.
I hear far to many stories where the fellowships they are involved with don’t allow them to sit and be still. Where they are allowed to soak in the word, to receive the prayers and encouragement of each other. In the name of faith, they are pushed to serve, serve and serve more and so we see the cycle of burn out within the church continually increase, with the result of people thinking they have lost or are losing their faith.
Now granted, there are some people who need to be encouraged to serve and to use the colloquialism: “They need a rocket up their butt to get them moving.” Which is another topic in its own right. But my main concern is in how do we recognise and minister to those whose main needs are to just sit and be still.
The reality is that Paul tells us that the role of the pastoral ministry is to equip and release the saints for the work of the ministry within their own environment…and sometimes that equipping work means we are comfortable in allowing people to just sit and be….and in doing so they will be equipped and released to do the work of the ministry. So I ask you pastors and elders, are you comfortable with the idea of sitting and rest?