How not to burn out

Some good advice on how to avoid burnout, for Christian ministers everywhere when adjusted for their circumstances, indeed also for me – from someone who has been there and paid the price for it:

I can actually think of both moments, right, where I’ve burned out, or came close to burning out. I can think I was disconnected, in the sense of, you love God, you pray, your read your Bible, but I have a message tonight, I need to meet with Jesus so I have something for the people. And it gets away from “I just love you, Lord, here I am, like Mary sitting at your feet” which has been my message: the secret place, soaking, marinating. I mean… But sometimes the very message that you preach is the very thing God’s saying to you.

And then you get so caught up in the work of revival. I remember in Lakeland that the first six weeks of Lakeland I would set aside two to four hours before I would do anything else to wait on the Lord, or in the afternoons. And then you get so busy with all the appointments and media and all the work of revival. Pretty soon after the sixth week, you know, it dwindles down to “I’ve got a few moments here. God, what are we doing tonight?” And God still moved in power, God still moved in power. And you still love the Lord but you lose the preciousness of “I’m just here because I love you, and there is no agenda”.

And the very thing you are saying, you know, is “I may be going. Give me the twelve steps. Give me a goal. Give me…” But you’re right, God is saying to me “It’s about the rest, it’s about getting back to…” I built our ministry on that relationship. Of course I didn’t know there would be ministry, it was just I loved the Lord and out of that love for the Lord everything flowed. And I can think of both situations, you know, I just got disconnected from the Lord.

Todd Bentley, speaking on the latest video at Rick Joyner’s page of videos about Todd’s restoration, dated 27th March and entitled “Entering Rest” (starting at 03:57).

Later in the ten minute (starting at 9:11) Todd says:

I was so devoted to the work of the ministry. Ministry is not evil, but I got so caught up in the love of the work. That’s really what led, after ten years that’s what led to… there was no relationship left with Shonnah, with my first wife, there was none. And to me that was the biggest issue, was  the ministry became the mistress. And I never can have that happen again. I mean, that doesn’t mean I can’t have ministry and do ministry, but it has to be done different.

Good advice! May every minister of the gospel take it to heart.

0 thoughts on “How not to burn out

  1. From Rick Joyner’s article linked to in the first comment, which reveals quite a lot which has not been made public before, at least from reliable sources:

    I have asked Todd several times what he thinks caused his divorce, and he has given the same reply each time, referring back to how he got married when he was nineteen, entered full-time ministry, and became married more to the ministry than to his wife. This can happen in ministry, or with any profession, job, hobby, or anything else that becomes an affection that eclipses our love for God, and one another. Ministry can actually be an idol that we start to worship in place of God. We need to understand how and why this happens if we are going to avoid it.

    Todd still cannot understand why his former wife did not seem to appreciate his success in ministry. She married Todd, not the ministry, and the ministry was causing increasing problems in the relationship, which was more important to her and would be to most women. At the same time, Todd obviously felt unappreciated for all that he was accomplishing, and this can be a dangerous open door to inappropriate affection from others who might seem to appreciate that kind of success more.

    Women have it right—relationships are more important than what we accomplish. …

    I really appreciated the zeal around Fresh Fire, especially during times of such lukewarmness in the church in general. However, there was an increasing cost in relationships with the added workload. After Todd hit the wall with burnout [several years ago, not in 2008], he then fell to an emotional attachment to a staff member. There was no physical relationship, and the girl did not return even the emotional attraction. When Todd went to his leadership team about what he was feeling, they immediately sent the girl away. Todd, trying to be open, then went to his wife to confess this attraction. Todd was trying to be transparent, but he is convinced that this was what killed what was left of his relationship to his wife.

    Todd often called this attraction “an affair,” but it was not one. There was no physical adultery or even physical contact with the girl. However, Todd said that he knows he would have entered into such a relationship if she had been willing, and therefore, he felt that he needed to repent of it as if it had been an affair. I can appreciate Todd feeling this way. Because of the way rumors spread and grow, many still think that Todd had an actual affair several years ago, when in fact he did not.

    The burnout Todd experienced resulted in him fighting deep depression for more than a year. When I was with him during that time, he related that he had not felt anything for so long, not even for the Lord. He was just void of feeling. Extreme is fashionable with the youth today, and probably one reason why so many of the youth are attracted to Todd is because he is the poster boy for extreme. He does not do anything part way, and during this time Todd fell into some extreme and fleshly behavior. He became addicted to tattoos, and just about covered himself in them. He started watching unseemly horror movies and on several occasions got drunk.

    When Todd started coming out [of depression], it was understandable that he wanted to just minister to people all the time, but even God took one day off after working six. When we violate God’s law of rest, we are in for a fall. … When the outpouring broke out in Lakeland, Todd went more than 120 days without a break. When he started taking a break from the meetings in Lakeland, it was usually to go preach somewhere else. When Todd went home at night, he did not have much peace, but was fighting the after-meeting depression and with his wife as their relationship continued to break down. That is a sure recipe for disaster, and it came quickly.

    After Lakeland and the breakup of his marriage, Todd spiraled down even further into a deep hopelessness. Many had told him he would be out of ministry for years, and some implied his ministry was over. That was really all Todd had at that time. I’m not saying this was right, but it was a fact. He had nothing else that he thought was valuable for others, and it was basically his reason for existence. When I talked to him and told him he could be restored, he started coming out of the hopelessness immediately.

    I share these things not to condemn or justify Todd, but to put into context and correct mistaken and exaggerated reports of Todd’s past behaviour. It is good to see this clarification of when he got most of his tattoos, although this does seem to conflict with some previous reports. Rick’s main point, in this article as in the video, is that Todd needs to spend time with God and be patient, and then the Lord will restore him when the time is right.

  2. Peter I think one of the reasons the reactions have been so extreme is because as Mr Joyner says Todd is the poster boy for extreme, the adage about Marmite comes to mind…
    Having ones almost entire body covered in tatoos is certainly extreme in my book, I would also like to see the piercing go, but thats just me. I come from a background where even pierced ears were frowned upon :}.
    I find this public restoration business rather unpleasant. Maybe just my English reticence about ‘hanging your dirty washing out in public’ So much of it is between God and Mr Bentley and absolutely none of our business.
    Repentance, brokenness before the Lord seems to me some thing that is done in the quiet place not the public gaze.
    May wisdom to do ‘what is right’ before God be given to these men, not what the public are percieved to need in order that a public ministry may be resumed.

  3. Thanks, Georgina. Indeed Todd is an extreme person and so not everyone’s cup of tea; that explains but doesn’t justify the extreme reactions. I understand your reservations about this process being so public. But I also understand why they have chosen to do it like this, both to deflect criticism and also because it does help some people in such situations to admit publicly to their problems – something Alcoholics Anonymous encourages for example.

    Roger, indeed this is not an issue only for those in the limelight. It is also a real one for those working in the parts of the world where I served and you serve, especially if we are remote from proper pastoral support which was the problem I had.

  4. I can certainly see why Geogina is uncomfortable seeing so much detail set out for all of us to see. I am a fairly typical British reserved middle aged male! No doubt the most extreme of the anti brigade, possibly some of those contributing on other recent posts will make much of it, and in their particular style.

    That said, given the extreme public nature of Todd’s ministry, his burnout and subsequent actions, it is perhaps inevitable that there be at least some more public face to the healing and restoration. And as you say Peter, if it helps others who may be close to or in a similar situation, then all credit to them for being so open.

    what this, and the clips you linked to earlier do acheive is firstly to set out some facts, which reduce the scope for mindless speculation. Secondly, for me at least, it gives confidence that the process is under way and moving in a positive direction.

    So I am encouraged by this. I also repeat my hobby horse that I hope the wider Church will learn the lessons. I am under no illusion that episodes like this will not happen again – we remain fallen and fallible humans. But hopefully we can reduce the frequency and severity of them.

  5. Thank you, Colin. I too hope the church learns wider lessons, such as not to allow leaders to get into the kind of position Todd was in, that is in terms of his excessive workload.

  6. IMO, the wider lesson for the church is that leaders need to be tested, and that the preaching of the gospel–at least from the pulpit–needs to be entrusted to reliable men. All this was advice Paul gave to Timothy regarding who to select as a leader.

    We need leaders who are even-keeled, not given to extreme swings in spirituality and behavior. Yes, Mr. Bentley was great when he was “on,” but he had an equally destructive effect when “off.”

    And, I must confess as I type this, that this message is as much for me as for anyone. I need to remind myself to be stable and trustworthy. Using the metaphor of the church as a temple and us as living stones, I want to be a “load-bearing” stone that supports the church to grow larger and higher, not a decorative piece. May God give us grace!

  7. Thanks for this. Too many Christian ministers suffer breakdown. Sadly too often the church sees it as a lack of faith or immaturity. Christian ministers are people too. Of course a Christian minister has a responsibility to the church but those churches who don’t believe the clergy should be celibate need to give their leaders understanding with regards family life. Christian ministers also need to get hold of the fact that they need to commit time and energy to family and marriage. I know nothing about how Mr Bentley (other than what I read or watch on public media) so I can’t comment on his own situation but clergy do need to develop rounded lives and not just work lives. Jesus was not married but we know he took time out to spend with friends and that he often went to quiet places. If Jesus can’t cope without this why should we believe modern clergy can.

    If you want your clergy to last then make sure you don’t demand too much of them.

  8. Tyson, that sounds good in principle, but do you have a foolproof way of selecting which leaders will be reliable in the long term? Age and experience in the faith are certainly no guarantee. Yes, we can do better, but we will still make mistakes. And we have to accept that all human beings have their limits and if they are allowed to take on unrestricted workloads they will break down.

    Chris, I agree with you. Of course celibate clergy still need understanding, if they are to remain truly celibate and avoid destructive behaviour – and they are perhaps even more prone to working themselves into burnout.

  9. I think Paul’s injunctions to Timothy about selecting elders and deacons are helpful: “First let them be tested, then if nothing is found against them …” and “… not a new convert, lest he fall into the same trap as the devil.” We need to give people time to prove themselves.

    I agree there is no fool-proof way to select reliable people, but there certainly are ways to detect unreliable people: time and testing. For example, Paul concluded Mark wasn’t suited for the missionary work because he bailed out of the first mission. Later on, Paul changed his mind because Mark did prove himself helpful in the ministry. The point is that Mark proved himself. Paul also commended Timothy to the Philippians on the basis of his faithful service “as a son with his father.”

    When I read Rick Joyner’s note about Todd Bentley’s extreme spiritual swings, that struck me as a sign that this guy was not reliable.

    Perhaps we are too blame as the church. We put Todd in a spotlight and role that he wasn’t ready for. Nowadays, it’s easy for ministers to get big publicity in a short amount of time. I guess that before electronic communications, things moved more slowly and ministers and ministries had to prove themselves. Instead of ministering over GodTV, broadcasting instantaneously to millions, they had to speak to people in person and minister in person.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as conceited. Quite to opposite … I am humbled by the standard the Bible holds for us as leaders in the church.

  10. Thanks, Tyson. We need to remember also that Todd has I think never been a church elder, that the ministry he has taken a break from is that of an evangelist. I just wonder how you can find a reliable evangelist.

    But mass evangelism is not just for the TV and Internet age. Much of Billy Graham’s ministry was done apart from TV. Whitefield preached to thousands without any modern technology. So, on the Day of Pentecost, did another evangelist who only seven weeks before had denied his faith and had repeatedly proved himself unreliable. Do you think the Apostle Peter should have been prevented from preaching because of his past?

  11. Re Tyson & Peter
    It’s interesting that God gave the job of breaking the gospel out into the gentiles to Peter. Peter went against ~1600 years of teaching, and Jesus’s comments to the Syro-Phoenician woman to go to the Centurion’s house. Purely based on a vision concerned with food when he as hungry. You could say that God gave this job to Peter because he was the most impulsive. I think however that it may have been because, following his betrayal, he was the most humble and meek, and would therefore accept the leading of the Spirit without question. The danger of theological understanding is that we marry is to our human understanding and then lean on it instead of trusting the Lord in meekness. I believe that that is whay so very few theologians do the works of Jesus that should accompany their theology – leaning on our human understanding, even when supposedly “sanctified” by bible knowledge is a trap. You can see the difficulties that this poses however.
    The issue of elders is also interesting as they were people chosen by man and appointed to oversee when the Apostles moved on to other areas. They were not necessarily Apostolic or even Ephesians 4 ministries. They just had to be steady and able to relay the apostolic teaching. Evangelist is an Ephesians 4 ministry. These people are not chosen by man, but a gift given by Jesus when he ascended. They usually enter paid ministry at the point when God chooses to accredit them with significant works (unless they have a rich uncle with a TV station) and their calling becomes undeniable. As, often, the timescale of this process is determined by God’s accreditation, How would we then say, in these cases, based on human analysis “this person is not suitable”? We would seem to be criticising God’s calling and election directly. Yet these ministries need pastoring and accounability like anyone else. Difficult

  12. Thanks, Duncan. I agree God can use anyone regardless of their past “performance.” And, God can also use our past failures for good, as in the case of Peter where he probably became much more humble and submissive to leading the Holy Spirit. Good discussion.

  13. Pingback: Whatever happened to Todd Bentley? - Gentle Wisdom

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