Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Solutions for Worship Leader Burnout

One of my favorite Old Testament characters is Elijah:
-he prays and it doesn’t rain for over three years,
-blesses a widow’s oil and flour so that it lasts during the time there is not any rain,
-raises the widow’s son from the dead,
-prays again and the rains return
-calls down fire from heaven and brings about a revival of the worship of Jehovah to an entire nation.

On the mount of transfiguration, Elijah is seen with Moses, all talking to Jesus. The forerunner that was to announce the coming of the Messiah is said to come in the spirit of Elijah. He is seen as a model prophet, God’s spokesman, boldly declaring the truth regardless of the consequences.

Yet, even in the life of this great man of God, we see a glimpse of what can happen to any one of us if we are not careful. In I Kings 18, we see that God sends the prophet to show himself to Israel’s evil king, Ahab, even though Ahab has been looking to kill him for three years. Elijah calls for a showdown between the prophets of Baal and Jehovah God on top of Mount Carmel. The story is well known, so I won’t go into detail here, but only to say that Elijah the challenge required that whichever one could call down fire from heaven would prove himself as the true God. It must have been quite a sight to see the 400 prophets of Baal dancing in a frenzy, cutting themselves, calling on their god, tearing down the altar Elijah had set up for his sacrifice.

After several hours and no fire, Elijah finally gets his turn. Calling all the people together to prove he has no tricks up his sleeve, he calls for water to be poured on top of his sacrifice. He prays a simple prayer and God sends fire that burns up even the stones around the altar. He then has the 400 prophets of Baal killed, the people swear allegiance to Jehovah alone and God is glorified in one of most celebrated stories of the Old Testament. However, it’s what happens after this that I would like for us to focus.

Ahab’s wicked wife, Jezebel, sends word to Elijah that she is out to kill him, so the prophet flees for his life to Beersheba, some 90 miles south, where God feeds him. After rest and more food, he then travels another 200 miles or so to Horeb [Mt. Sinai, where Moses received the commandments], all of this in 40 days. He goes into a cave to rest and God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” The prophet replies, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” God then tells him to go stand before the Lord on the mountain. There is a strong wind, but God was not in the wind, an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake, a fire, but God was not in the fire. Finally, there was a gentle whisper, and God repeats his question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah repeats the same answer.

Wonderful insight can be gained by emphasizing different words of the question: WHAT are you doing here? [implying he was doing what he had been called to do] What are YOU doing here? [Elijah, you are my prophet, my model for the people, I called you, you are mine] or What are you doing HERE? [of all places, what has caused you to fear that you would run and hide?]. Among other things, Elijah was experiencing burnout. He lacked rest, he was physically and emotionally exhausted, and felt like he was all alone with no one even caring whether he lived or died.

I would encourage more time mediating on the passage and questions, but for now, just look as some observations:

-Elijah had just experienced a major spiritual victory in his life. Sometimes, such victories make us forget how susceptible we are to other problems and we tend to think of ourselves as “super Christians,” above the normal fray of trial and temptation. Such thinking makes us forget how dependent on God we really are.

-Elijah was exhausted and hungry. Lack of sleep, irregular eating habits can cause severe problems.

-Elijah was unable to see the larger picture of what God was doing. He only focused on his situation and what was immediately around himself. His viewpoint is only negative, he cannot break free of his thinking everything is bad.

What was God’s solution:

- Food and rest: twice God provides food and rest before he sets out on this journey.

-God gets him away from the situation

-God shows his power and flexibility: He doesn’t always have to respond in the same way

-God makes the prophet look at his situation differently by asking him questions

-God shows him the larger picture, that there were over 7000 that had never bowed to worship Baal, that he was the not only one left.

So what does all this have to do with Worship Leadership? It’s obvious, isn’t it? You may have had one of the most memorable worship services or programs of your life, yet afterward you feel completely worthless. Perhaps you feel like you just want to give up, that nobody cares, no one even knows how much you do, and that everything just seems to be failing all around you? You may be in burnout. What can you do?

Ministry schedules are brutal at times, since rehearsals depend on the availability of volunteers and their schedules. Planning, organizing, dealing with poor budgets, inadequate equipment, or people that don’t get along with each other, all take their toll on emotional energy, sapping the strength needed to complete tasks. Many times, leaders themselves are bi-vocational and are holding down a full time job, providing for their family, besides investing countless hours in worship ministry. They stay up late, have to get up early, and getting the proper amount of rest is the last consideration on their agenda. What can you do?

we cannot be all that God has called us to be if we fail to be good stewards of our physical bodies. Proper rest, adequate diet, exercise are not just something for the few, but the basics for everyone, especially those in leadership. Show me a person failing in these areas, and I’ll show you a person who is also failing in leadership areas as well.

Second, plan some time to “get away” from the situation on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be a major vacation, but at least some time when you have some time to refocus, mediate in God’s Word and pray, away from the daily demands of your position. This certainly can be done with the entire family, and better than leaving the spouse to take care of the kids alone.

go back and review your call to ministry, how God has brought you to this point. Spend some time listing the things your are grateful for that God has done. Seriously, write them out. Take the time, then read them out loud. Ask your spouse and kids to add to the list. What a great family project this could be!

Fourthly, ask God to help you see the bigger picture. What is God doing around the world? Where is He moving in power, even in difficult situations? Remember that He is in control and He will have the final word and judgement. We can trust Him, even when things are seemingly hopeless to us.

get up and be obedient to what God has called you to do. Literally, get up and go do something He has commanded: helping someone in need, visiting someone in the hospital or at home, the elderly. Do not just “stay” where you are. Again, many times these are things you can do as a family. One more thing: Plan the next "get away" before you finish.

No comments:

Post a Comment