A fire needs three things to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a spark.
If you remove any of these three a fire will quickly burn out.
I have done plenty of camping in my lifetime. Living in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park makes camping a natural part of life for my family. On top of camping, I worked at a Christian camp for over a decade. A safe estimation is that I made two campfires per week for groups and retreats for ten years – that is over a thousand campfires I built, lit, and stoked! Just imagine what I would have been capable of if I attended more than one Boy Scout meeting in elementary school.
While I build significantly less fires as a pastor, part of my role is to stoke spiritual fires in people’s lives.
- We create worship environments.
- We prepare lessons for small groups.
- We counsel families during crises.
- We leverage events to reach outsiders.
But for many of us we realize that in the midst of stoking everyone else’s spiritual fires we neglect to stoke our own. We start to burnout while we are busy stoking fires.
Martha is our spirit animal. We become so busy doing ministry and ensuring our congregation doesn’t miss Jesus that we fail to sit with Him on a daily basis. We literally miss out on the Jesus we are proclaiming to everyone else.
The desire to serve others has left many church leaders with busy hands and passionless hearts. Some of us go as far as Martha and complain when others aren’t helping us with a noble task and we lead those people away from the essential, which is Jesus.(Read Luke 10: 41-42) Our concern for many things can easily draw us away from choosing what is of utmost importance – desiring Jesus.
Apart from Jesus’ sacrifice, service is meaningless. Ministry leaders who serve without sitting at Jesus’ feet are ministering in vain.
In an effort to stoke other’s spiritual fires we neglect to tend to our own. Obviously I’m not telling you that you should stop serving others – this is unbiblical and self-centered. I’m simply reminding you that you can’t neglect your relationship with Jesus.
While a fire needs three elements to burn your soul needs three components to avoid burnout:
- Spiritual Disciplines
Stoke Your Spiritual Fire
Being in awe of Jesus. More than worship music – this is about being in awe of Jesus and living a spirit-lead life full of prayer, repentance, and the Gospel. It is a reminder that Jesus is greater, our sins are forgiven, and our calling has been laid before us.
Don’t pass over this like you have perfected your spiritual state. How are your spiritual disciplines going? We know that spiritual disciplines are essential for our specification and maturation process. Do you feel hypocritical teaching about the importance of spending time with God because you are unable to clear your calendar and prioritize Jesus in your own life?
A fire left alone will burn out. Are you alone during this season of ministry? And you know that your spouse doesn’t count as being the totality of your community… Who are the people speaking into your life? Who is encouraging you? Who is telling you the truth, even when you want to avoid it? Who is discipling you?
Slow down before you rush over these three elements to address an issue or prepare for your next teaching lesson.
How is your fire for ministry going?
A fire left alone will go out.
A fire that isn’t stoked will slowly die.
A fire without oxygen will suffocate.
As one ministry leader to another – don’t be so busy stoking others fires that you neglect to tend your own.