“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” – Acts 20:28 (NASB)
Serving the church has certainly been challenging during the COVID19 crisis. This novel virus has demanded innovative skills and a landscape that seems to change daily. A recent article I read by John Dobbs (link below) caused me to ponder how a pastor can avoid burnout while trying to effectively shepherd God’s church under current restraints. It’s important to remember a few things:
- God was not surprised by this, or any, crisis. He who formed the earth and upholds it by the word of His power was not caught short, unaware, or impotent!
- God’s call to shepherd His flock is not negated by these circumstances. He knew about this when He called us to serve, wherever we are. It’s all part of His calling.
- God’s resources are enough to equip and sustain His shepherds. The God who calls us also equips us and supplies our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian elders is helpful here. He warns them first to “be on guard for yourselves.” It is important that God’s shepherds protect their own spiritual vitality. The welfare of the flock entrusted to them depends upon it. How can a man do so? There are many ways…I’ll just mention three here.
Disciplined devotion. There is no substitute for a rich devotional life with God. Maintaining one requires discipline. Like any other relationship, our devotion to God can wax and wane through various seasons of life. It is important to be disciplined about spending the necessary time to grow increasingly closer to God and love Him more deeply. When all is said and done, our devotion to God is one thing we can really depend on.
Peers & Mentors. The New Testament itself bears witness to the importance of peer relationships: the twelve, Paul and Barnabas, etc. These brothers served and prayed and preached and traveled together. Though they didn’t always agree, their mutual accountability was real and healthy (Paul confronting Peter’s hypocrisy in Antioch). Paul’s mentorships are evident in Silas, Timothy, and others. The Timothy Letters are a rich and valued resource for every pastor and, also provide a model for praxis. It is important to develop peer and mentoring relationships.
Biblical Counsel. Pastors would do well to hear the well-known adage, “Physician, heal thyself!” Sometimes the pastor can benefit from a counselor. Thankfully, Louisiana Baptists provide Granberry Counseling Services at no cost to ministers and their families. It’s confidential. You can find a center near you here.
When I was a kid, we would sword fight with sticks. Before engaging in the fight, we would mimic fencers and declare “en garde!” It was a warning to defend yourself…an attack is coming. If pastors are going to care for God’s sheep, we must first guard our own spiritual vitality. En Garde Pastors!
Below is the link to the original article. I really love the fact that the author humbly expresses the hope that we’ll look back and conclude that his concerns were overstated. I join him in that hope.