And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Counseling Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 3

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Biblical Responses to Psychological Diagnosis

Because the Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” we can turn within its pages and find Biblical solutions to the problems that bring ministers down (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The hopeless minister needs just this kind of encouragement.  Like John the Baptist who struggled in Herod’s prison, the minister needs a word from God that restores their vitality in ministry.  Thus a counselor can offer the following Biblical insights of truth rather than worldly suggestions.

The excuse of burnout seems to come up repetitively as a means of shifting blame from the minister to the conditions of the realm of ministry itself.  It is often used to save face by alluding that their situation is special and that no one else could be expected to thrive under such means.  Much of the problem in burnout can be related to a wrong set of standards or goals.  It can also deal with a fear of man or trying to please people and work harder to meet their expectations.  The fear of man is nothing new.  This condition is seen in Mark 14:50 and 71 with Peter’s denial of Christ and the fleeing of the disciples in the crucifixion story.  However, hope can be given through reminding the counselee, that after prayer and abiding in Christ, the disciples were motivated to glorify God.  When threatened in Acts, a clear change has occurred as demonstrated in their new resolve to stand for the gospel.

The Bible addresses burnout in Galatians 6:9:  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  This text is not only about not giving up, but it also provides warning and hope.  The counselee needs to choose the good to do, which is God’s direction, not just busywork that has been wearing them out.  The early church was faced with the dilemma of busy work in serving (Acts 6).  Ministers need to be counseled to not grow weary. Moses faced a decision to delegate with his father-in-law Jethro: “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Exod 18:18).  Work is a very good thing.  But the obsession with work and the neglect of abiding in Christ is condemned (Luke 10:38-42).

Therefore, to help the counselee, the counselor needs to focus the person’s attention on the sovereignty of God.  This will aid them in knowing that they partner with God who ultimately does the work.  Here, their faith must be put in Him to bring about a change of attitude. The hopeless minister needs help in understanding that they answer to God and He is ultimately the one in control. Because burnout is reflective of a lack of joy, the counselee needs to be reminded scripturally of the privilege of serving God and that “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10).  If a counselee is experiencing burnout, they most likely are serving man and not the Heavenly Father.  It is imperative that they be reminded that the ministerial work is for His glory, whether in difficult work or in success (1 Cor 10:31; Isa 6:8-13).

Many ministers fit the description of being depressed.  The Bible speaks to depression as it deals with pride. Pride can accentuate itself in depression, rather than by boasting, in its subtle ability to mask itself as humility. The person may not vocalize their accomplishments, yet they still seek recognition.  Their feelings are such as they believe they are not being treated as they think they actually deserve.  Asher and Asher state, “Depression is sin if we allow the feelings to control our life instead of God.”[1]  Thus, depression needs to be treated as sin through repentance as Christians are to do all things for the glory of God and not self.  To help with this, biblical counselors must remind them of how the Savior was treated despite His lack of guilt.  He endured in order to first honor His Father.  As stated in the section on perseverance, it is actually a badge of honor to suffer for the cause of Christ (Matt 5:11-12; Heb 11:36-40).

When dealing with someone who claims depression, the counselor needs to listen to what they are saying.  Edward Welch writes, “Allow the depressed person to fill the word depression with the meaning it has for him or her.”[2]  Because depression is a feeling-based heart disposition, the counselee needs to be reminded of their responsibility despite their attitude.  The depressed person often needs a renewal of the mind.  “Depressed people can still be thankful and confident in God, yet have emotions that feel dead.”[3] Great hope is found in Romans 12:2-3:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 

The counselee needs to think biblically about themselves and their situation.  What they need is humility and Hope (Heb 12:1-17). 

Once again the feelings of a minister wanting to give up must be addressed with the sin that they are.  Guilt may be valid in the sense that the minister is under conviction for sin.  This can be addressed through repentance and helping the pastor to break sinful habits.  There may be a sense of guilt resulting for an improper belief that all is up to the minister and things are not as they should be.  Guilt of this sort tends to lack an understanding of the grace of God, despite failures.

One helpful principle from the Scriptures of God making up for failures is in Jeremiah 15:19: “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.’”  It is true that there are consequences for sins and failures, but they must not become idols.  Guilt should be addressed as sin.  Whether it is from God or self-imposed, guilt should be addressed through repentance.

As illustrated in the section of statics, some ministers lack motivation to continue in earnest.  Many may have already quit the ministry spiritually, yet hang on to meet the needs they have by way of a paycheck.  This greatly adds to the difficulties they face in job performance.  A minister’s motivation is a key influence in their decision making towards quitting.  It is motivation by the call of God that may be the single most important factor in turning them from actual movements toward walking away and into a return to Christ.  Once a person loses hope, their motivation ceases to keep them moving toward a particular set of choices and consequently on to another. The counselor redemptively needs to counsel them to persevere with the hope that there is in the cross of Christ.

Both pride and self-esteem are the same term for how someone views their own worth.  This issue of the heart can manifest itself in many ways, pronounced and subtle.  Self-evaluation plays a very strong role in the judgments a person makes as to how they should be treated.  If a person thinks more highly of themselves at a level than others are actually treating them, they will perceive their situation as unjust.  This conflict of values left unchecked can become a gateway to many misperceptions.

Self-esteem is hazardous.  It is merely man’s label for one of the most subtle of poisons, pride. The Bible, however, teaches that Christians are to deny self rather than feed self-esteem (Luke 9:23).  Failure to recognize this truth of scripture, short circuits the sanctification process.  Biblically, the exaggerated view of self will add to the downfall of the minister.  This can be seen in the lives of King Saul and King Hezekiah.  Saul, in 1 Samuel 15 took matters into his own hands by disobeying the word of Samuel.  He spared Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen.  It was because of this that God gave his kingdom to David.  King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 boastfully showed the Babylonian envoys all the treasures of the kingdom.  This led to the sacking of the temple.  In a more modern sentiment, many ministers know of the public downfall of Jim Baker, Ted Haggard. and others whose ministries crumbled because of prideful decisions.

Pastors wanting to quit often cite the pressure and stress of the job. It is very reasonable to agree that the position of a minister incorporates many responsibilities and demands.  However, one can find hope in the truth that the joy of the Lord is their strength.  When a pastor is burdened by the stress of the role he plays the counselor should listen to the details, and then remind the counselee that in the sovereignty of God all that is necessary can be done and that God will provide for all the true needs.  Sometimes, when a pastor is stressed it may be helpful to aid them in organizing and prioritizing the requirements of the job, all the while being wary that they may be stress all because they are people pleasers of looking to accomplishments as a means of personal gratification.  Both of these tendencies can be idolatry.   The biblical solution is to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33-34).

The angry minister needs to be reminded that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Scores of helpful books exist as to dealing with anger.  Yet a few key truths of Scripture ought to be used in restoring the despondent shepherd who is mad.  They should be restored by gentle rebuke.  Remind them that if they have anything against anyone and they are worshipping they must stop and make it right (Matt 5:23-26; Eph 4:26).  It is anger that often leads to a distance from God that in turn, leads to a distance from His church.

[1]Asher and Asher, The Christian’s Guide, 56.
[2]Edward Welch, Blame it on the Brain (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1998), 117.
[3]Ibid., 119.

No comments: