What the Preeminence of Christ Can Teach Us About Avoiding Burnout

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In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Colossae, he sets before us a panoramic view of the Lord Jesus, exalted in His eternal glory and splendor. This is the very Christ who lives in us and who empowers us in all that the Father has given us to do.

He is the image of the invisible God, (Colossians 1:15a)

Jesus is the God who has become visible. We can see the Father in Him and through Him.

…the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15b)

Jesus is God’s most highly exalted reigning son. He is seated supremely over all that God has created.

For by him all things were created, (Colossians 1:16a)

Jesus is the source of all that exists. Everything that is has emerged out of His person.

In heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–(Colossians 1:16b)

Jesus is not only the source of physical things, but powers and dominions have come from Him as well.

all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16c)

Jesus is not only the source of everything that is, but the recipient also. All things will be finalized in Him.

And he is before all things, (Colossians 1:17a)

Jesus is preeminent in all of the realms of the earth and heaven, above and before all that exists.

and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17b)

Jesus is the “glue” in the universe! Everything that is together finds its cohesion in Him alone. it is Christ who binds the planets in their orbits and who holds the molecules within their structures. He is the One who keeps our hearts whole and binds our marriages, our families and our churches together.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)

God has designed time and eternity for the single purpose of Jesus, His Son, reigning supreme!

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:19-20)

Because all of God’s fullness lived in Jesus, through Him the Father was able to reconcile all things to Himself. It was by Christ’s blood shed at the cross that peace was purchased with God, the righteous One.

Paul continues with this theme of fullness in the first chapter by writing of the way in which he desires to present the Word of God in its fullness (v.25) and to present every person complete in Christ. As He closes the chapter, we see a summary statement of the truths that he taught the Corinthians concerning God’s adequacy in the new covenant.

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:29)

We, too, must learn to labor in ministry through the energy of Christ who lives within us or we will burn out. In our brief glimpses of Paul’s labors, we can quickly see that he kept an incredible schedule and seemed to work endlessly. From Paul’s life we can see that hard work or a heavy schedule are not the primary causes of burnoutBurnout comes from working in the wrong areas, not watching to see what God is doing, and from working in our own strength. When we place our hope in what we are able to do rather than what Christ is able to do, we will collapse when our resources are depleted.

Paul returns to his message of “fullness” in his second chapter.

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

What a description of who Jesus is–the fullness of God in a physical body! Christ is the fullness of deity in bodily form, and we have been given fullness in Christ! The same Lord Jesus that Paul so wonderfully exalts in his song of worship in Colossians chapter one is the Christ who lives within us and who fills us in every way.

Finishing_Well_I_4cdd87b7eb0b6This post is an excerpt from Finishing Well in Life and Ministry by Bill Mills and Craig Parro.

Burnout is inevitable. Apart from the sustaining presence of God, the pressures of ministry are more than any man or woman can bear. Learn from Elijah, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul and the Lord Jesus. This book will help you, so that, like Jesus, you will be able to declare to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”

Also available in Spanish and Chinese

Learn about Leadership Resources’ program called Training National Trainers that equips national pastors in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America to preach the Word of God with the heart of God.

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And a child will lead them…

Dear Friends and Partners,

I imagine Omar was very nervous. Not because he didn’t know the TNT (Training National Trainers) curriculum. After all, he’s been one of our most eager learners in Honduras these past two years. No, the problem was his age. He looks like he’s in his 30’s. What would the 14 other pastors think (many of them older than Omar) as Omar passed on the TNT training to them? One pastor who was coming to the training had already started ministry when Omar was only 11 years old. How would this seasoned pastor respond to this young whipper-snapper???

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Omar sharing his story (scroll down to see video)

This experienced pastor came to the training, not knowing that Omar was leading it. His jaw dropped: “Omar? Is Omar going to teach me?” This was nonsense.  “Omar is just a child to me. How’s he going to be able to teach?”

Talk about intimidating! How would you respond if you were Omar?

Omar simply said, “No, it’s not going to be I who is going to teach you, but the Word of God.  It’s going to be the Lord who is going to speak through His Word.”

As Omar and the 14 pastors began to study the book of Jonah, something dazzling happened: the Scriptures became alive. The Spirit of God began speaking through the Word of God. As so often happens, the time of immersion in the Word was rich, deep, encouraging and convicting. So convicting, that at the end of the week this older pastor repented for his arrogant attitude. Said he: “I’ve really just been wasting my time — I’ve been wasting 35 years of just preaching nothing.” He continued, “Really I am the child, and you are my father.”

DSC_0243-300x198And a child will lead them…” God is using young pastors like Omar to teach other pastors how to study, teach and preach God’s Word. Thank you for investing in faithful men like Omar.

Honduras is the poorest and most dangerous country in Central America, yet the Word of God is increasing and multiplying there. In partnership with Omar and others, we are launching a pastoral training movement in Honduras, to the glory of God. Rejoice with us!

 

 

With much gratitude in Christ,

craig-parroCraig Parro
President

 

 

Watch Omar tell his story:

The Ministry Mind-Shift Desperately Needed in Latin American Churches

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Este artículo y nuestro website están disponibles en Español.

In the 2000s, a well-known mega church did a study to measure how their church was cultivating spiritual growth in their attendees. They went in with the assumption that the more a person participated in church activities, the more spiritual growth they would experience.

They were wrong.

The results of the study actually suggested that the church’s efforts to grow people through programs left many mature believers unsatisfied and hungering for more. The more mature a person was in Christ–the more dissatisfied they were with the church’s efforts.

How do you measure success in your church? Increased attendance, successful programs, money in the offering plate, or a greater growth in the gospel?

The answer to that question depends on what you consider the goal of ministry. Does Christ desire more seats to be filled in your church, for successful programs to be run, or for disciples to be grown in the gospel to full maturity in Christ?

Paul’s ministry manifesto gives us the answer: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). Does this mean that programs are bad? No, assuming the fact that the programs foster what really matters: the growth of disciples in the gospel by encountering God through His Living Word.

Striking the Right Balance Between Programs and the Growth of Disciples

A helpful illustration comes from the book The Trellis & The Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall. A trellis (which symbolizes the structure within a church) is a wooden structure that exists to support and guide the growth of a vine. The vine symbolizes the spiritual life imparted to disciples as God’s Word is driven home to a disciple’s heart by the Spirit. Just like a trellis is good if it supports the growth of the vine, programs and structure within a church are good if they are causing disciples to grow. If a gardener focuses on building a huge trellis and neglects the growth of the vine, they forget the trellis’s real purpose: to support vine growth.

In a similar way, we can build programs at church in which hundreds of people come but are not growing as disciples. Several big ministries have sadly come to the realization that their ministry efforts were constructing gargantuan trellises and had little vine growth to show for their efforts.

Part of the difficulty in thinking this way is because it is easier to count regular attenders of a program than perceive how your people are growing in the gospel. You can’t easily put a number on how someone is growing more like Christ–it is messier and more of a long-term approach than merely counting tallies.

How do pastors fight this? There are several ways that Marshall and Payne describe to develop a ministry mindset focused on disciple making applied to churches. Here are a few thoughts applied to Latin America:

Developing the Trellis and Vine Mindset in Latin America

1. Put people before programs.

When thinking of a specific person, ask yourself what would be the most helpful for this person at their current level of maturity to grow in the gospel. It may not be the best thing for a person to direct them to a one-sized-fits-all program simply because of their age. Maybe sitting and reading the Bible together would be the most helpful, or maybe meeting one-to-one with an older saint.

Putting people before programs means to build ministry around people. Get to know those you minister to and ask them what they are interested in and would most help them grow.

This idea may be foreign to many churches in Latin America who have invested years into beautiful looking ministry structures. Make sure that your program efforts are cultivating vibrant spiritual life by having Word-centered approaches for ministry that allows the speaking of the Word of God by the Spirit of God, and put people before programs.

2. Consider the Pastor as Trainer.

In many churches in Latin America, the pastoral role is seen as one of power; which may cause pastors to wince at the thought of decentralizing their authority by empowering others for ministry. Failing to train others fails to understand God’s desire for pastoral ministry.

God gave pastors and teachers to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). God has gifted each individual believer for ministry and their gifts need to be cultivated.

We want pastors to train people to multiply the ministry being done both inside and outside of the church. The more Word-saturated, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ that take the gospel to their communities and workplaces, the better.

The Great Commission is directed at all believers, not just pastors.

The Pastor-as-Trainer model is what Paul charged Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:2 and is the basis of Leadership Resources’ Training National Trainers program–we train pastors for a ministry of the Word who then equip others for the same work.

3. Spread faithful exposition from the pulpit to the pews.

God saves people by His Spirit carrying the message of the gospel to our hearts. That often happens in a powerful way from the pulpit–but can also happen in everyday conversation for every believer. Equip your people to read the Word for themselves and explain it to others.

Cultivate a culture in your congregation that loves reading the Bible with each other and with unsaved friends. As your congregation becomes more Word-centered, they will grow in righteousness and grow in their ministry capacity (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This may be especially helpful for your people as they talk with Catholic friends and relatives–instead of debating theology, they can hear from God directly through His Word.

One of the reasons the Reformation changed the world was that it challenged believers to read the Word for themselves and not solely rely on the clergy’s explanation of the Word. Equipping your people to faithfully study the Word will transform their view of God and your church.

Developing this mindset focused on gospel growth in your church does not happen overnight. You will have to work hard and possibly avoid certain ministry shortcuts that could make your life easier.

God knows this, and the apostle Paul knew this. But we have tremendous reason for hope. After he said Colossians 1:28, he followed with 1:29: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” God will energize you in your efforts and work powerfully within you.

May God work powerfully within us as we make disciples!

Author: Kevin Halloran

These are just a few ideas applied from The Trellis and The Vine (available through Matthias Media). If you need equipping in the Word of God, our Fellowship of the Word (US) or Training National Trainers program can equip you to faithfully minister God’s Word with God’s heart and teach others to do so as well.

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