During the past couple of weeks, I’ve listened to a number of church leaders, who have expressed the same thing: ‘I’m starting to get a bit tired.’ In my view, that’s classic British (or Irish) understatement. Many are completely exhausted.
Church leaders in this moment are not just ‘a bit tired.’ Many are dangerously close to the edge. July is a low point in the energies of many in ministry. The end of the academic year is often seen as the end of the church’s year, regardless of whether our tradition follows the traditional liturgical calendar or not. But this July, that effect is compounded by several additional factors:
Figuring out new ways of being church has left us weary. In addition, just as we thought we’d come up with solutions, we’re faced with the option to re-open our buildings, so the ‘new normal’ isn’t normal at all, but constantly changing, draining us of energy.
‘Zoom fatigue’ has set in. Not to mention something I call ‘video-preach exhaustion.’ I made that one up myself, but I’m sure you know what I mean. Trying to balance my notes, hitting ‘record,’ working out how to read my slides, if they’re on the computer, then making every effort to do a perfect take. If you’re a perfectionist, you can lose hours aiming for . . . well, perfection.
No breaks. Many leaders haven’t had a proper holiday for a long time. What was a holiday even supposed to look like during lockdown? And those who contracted the virus have the added factor of the fatigue which follows it.
I don’t wish to discourage you. In fact, quite the opposite.
Over the next three weeks, I’m going to look at three ideas: refresh, reflect, rebuild. I encourage you to engage with each of these in that order.
First, refresh. The temptation here for some, especially the more ‘activist’ among us, is to go into ‘rebuild’ mode. We want to reopen our buildings, restart our programmes, and reconnect with our people. All well and good. But, if you’re weary, you just can’t do it, at least not in a way that honours the Lord. Unreflective busyness is a plague within evangelicalism that’s more infectious than COVID-19. It’s so important to reflect before you rebuild so you can be sure you’re doing what the Lord wants.
It’s not possible to reflect when you’re weary. Ever tried making a cup of coffee through brain fog? No? Perhaps I’m the only one who occasionally puts ground coffee straight into my cup instead of in the cafetiere. Now try discerning the Lord’s good and pleasing will when your brain is mush. I’m not saying He can’t get through to you when you’re tired – if He could use a donkey to get to Balaam, you know He has ways of getting through to even the most stubborn – but that should be the exception. Pushing on while completely exhausted is equivalent to a cordless bungee jump off the pinnacle of the Temple, a temptation to which the Lord says, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:5-7).
As I begin this short series, I also want to remind you that we at Living Leadership are here to help. Our aim is to train godly leaders and to help sustain them and their spouses for the long haul. We are seeking to put in place additional resources and programmes offering the kind of support leaders need.
The heart of what we do, though, is relationships of support and encouragement. Marcus Honeysett and Paul Coulter (that’s me!) are available to leaders online and in our regions (southeast England and Northern Ireland respectively). We are also excited to be growing our network of associates across the UK and Ireland – seasoned pastors of pastors who can come alongside leaders as mentors and care-givers.
In May, we started a new initiative called Refresh Network Online which has provided spaces for leaders and spouses to be encouraged and prayed for. Feedback from participants has shown us just how much they appreciated this opportunity to sit back and be fed. The initial series of meetings finishes next Wednesday, but we are making plans to restart it on a regular basis from September onwards.
Next week, we have a new person joining our staff team to enhance our capacity to help further still (announcement to follow).
So, give us a shout if you think we can help you.
As I close, if you’re weary, I encourage you to refresh. I’ll write more about that next week. For now, though, let me leave you with a portion of Scripture to meditate on, which promises refreshment to our bones (Proverbs 3:5-8). The words may be familiar, but take time to slow down and soak in them. Let the Lord lead you into deeper trust so that you can walk in His straight paths of wisdom:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.