burnout (5)

Why Was Elijah Depressed?

Elijah has always been one of my favorite Bible characters, and I’m particularly intrigued by the chapter where he fights deep depression (1 Kings 19). The mighty prophet had witnessed amazing answers to prayer, stopping the rain for years before starting it again. He had multiplied a widow’s meager supply of food and raised her son from the dead. And for good measure, he called down fire from heaven and slayed the false prophets of Baal.

Huge victories, to say the least. Impressive demonstrations of faith. Causes for great celebration, we might think.

So how in the world did Elijah become utterly depressed—to the extent that he wanted God to end his life?

Although some people act as if depression has only one cause, in Elijah’s case we see this simply isn’t true. You might come up with a different list than mine, but I’ve found 7 lessons about depression we can learn from Elijah’s story:

  1. Be careful what you listen to. The onset of Elijah’s melancholy can be traced to 1 Kings 19:2: “Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah.” Every moment of every day, we are bombarded with messengers, aren’t we? God is speaking. The devil is speaking. And we receive countless positive or negative messages through the people around us and diverse forms of media. Beware: The spirit of Jezebel is still speaking, my friend! And if we listen to that diabolical messenger, we’ll inevitably become depressed, just like Elijah.
  2. Avoid the tendency to go it alone. Elijah made two mistakes that contributed to his downward spiral. First, he left his servant behind (v. 3). During the prophet’s dark hours in the cave, no one was with him to cheer him up or offer helpful perspective. But an even worse problem was his disconnect from the God-fearing Israelites who could have been his allies: the “seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal” (v. 16). It’s depressing to feel all alone in a daunting mission—but sometimes we just need to connect with those who would happily be our comrades.
  3. Recognize the physical factors influencing your state of mind. Depression isn’t just a spiritual or psychological condition. Often it’s greatly influenced by factors that are physical or chemical in nature. If you study this chapter in detail, you’ll see that Elijah was extremely fatigued, deprived of adequate sleep for several days. He also was dehydrated and lacking in nutrition until God sent an angel to give him water and food (vs. 5-8). On top of everything else, he had faced a period of great stress, which often results in adrenal exhaustion and other deficits in a person’s body chemistry.
  4. Assess whether you’re in the right place. Twice in this passage, God asks the prophet a fascinating question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (verses 9 & 13). If you’re feeling depressed today, it’s good to ask whether you’re “out of position” in some way. Are you in job or ministry where you don’t fit? Are you remaining in the wrong city or country, when the Lord has been nudging you to move somewhere else? Are you staying in a toxic relationship, when you know you don’t have God’s peace?
  5. Beware of the egotistical view that everything depends on you. When you try to play God, you will inevitably become both exhausted and depressed. Elijah told the Lord, “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (v. 10). He knew there was a lot more work to be done in bringing repentance and national restoration to Israel, and he felt the job depended entirely on him! When we get stuck in that kind of overwhelming mindset, we need to pause and (1) cast our burdens on the Lord, and (2) recognize our need to team up with other people in order to fulfill the remaining mission.
  6. Amid whirling circumstances and activities, make sure you don’t lose touch with God’s gentle whisper and still small voice. While it’s clear Elijah knew a lot about intimacy with God, it seems he slipped away from that intimacy amid the busyness of his life and ministry. Can you relate? In the midst of the busyness of “serving God,” it’s all too easy to neglect spending quality time with Him. In this case, the Lord showed Elijah “a great and strong wind…an earthquake…and a fire” (vs. 11-12), but the divine message came with His gentle whisper instead of any of these dramatic events. Ask yourself: Can you still hear the Lord’s quiet voice, or do you only feel His presence when the worship band is blaring?
  7. Find hope in remembering your mission—or in finding a new one, if necessary. Elijah had already accomplished a great deal. It was understandable to wonder if his life’s mission had already been completed. But it’s incredibly depressing when you no longer believe God still has an important purpose for your life. A major breakthrough in shedding his depression came when Elijah was recommissioned by Lord with a new calling—to anoint some kings and “anoint Elisha as prophet in your place” (v. 15-16). Perhaps this is a message for you as well: It could be time to equip the next generation and train your replacement!

Action Steps

Most of us have faced a bout of serious depression at one time or another. Hey, if it could happen to Elijah, you and I certainly aren’t immune.

However, you don’t need to stay in the “cave” or the valley of despair. Learning the lessons from Elijah’s story, you can believe God’s promises and quit listening to the messengers of condemnation and defeat. You can learn to rely on the Lord and your comrades instead of carrying the entire load on your own shoulders.

It’s also important to regularly monitor the physical factors you’re dealing with. Are you getting enough sleep, exercise, hydration, and nutrition? Do you need to take steps to eliminate some of the stress in your life?

Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself the “placement” question God asked Elijah. Are you in the right place…the right role…with the right people?

If, like Elijah, you’ve lost your sensitivity to the Lord’s gently whisper amid life’s busyness, I pray you’ll hear it once again. And when you do, don’t be surprised if He reaffirms your calling—or gives you a whole new mission.

I’m praying your best days are still ahead!  

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Dr Thom Ranier recently wrote “Five Common Reasons Church Members Burnout”. 

9570806852?profile=original His points in his blog were:

  1. The church does not have clear purposes or vision. Many times the busyness of church life is not the problem; it is the lack of clarity of the vision of the church. Give church members a clear “why” to the ministry they do, and many will never grow weary of the work.

  2. The church has certain activities because “we’ve always done it that way before.” Few things lead to burnout more quickly than asking a member to be a part of something that has ceased to be useful to the church. “I was on a committee that met every month,” one church member told me. “But our committee never accomplished anything. If the committee disappeared tomorrow, very few people would notice.”

  3. Too few members doing most of the ministry. This issue is both a symptom and a cause. In most established churches, about 90 percent of the ministry is done by one-third of the members.

  4. The church does not celebrate enough. Celebrations are great motivators to continue the labor and ministry. They remind us of God’s provisions and His victories working through us.

  5. The church has no clear expectations of membership. In most of our churches, we expect little or nothing of our members, and that is exactly what we get. It is imperative for churches to have a new members’ class or entry point class that provides both information and expectations.


The five reasons listed by Dr. Ranier are a good starting place but the next four reasons will call on your Church to focus on the real purpose of being called a Christian – “Doing Ministry”.  The Great Commission was not given to the church or any one church and it was definitely not given to any one organization…  It was given to the followers of Christ.  Jesus intended his commission to call to his followers and to empower them to go into the world and make a difference and make disciples. 


The Church has actually never made a disciple; instead, it has been the People in the Church.


If we believe, it is people that do ministry and not the Church we need to address members.


Why do members get burned out?


1. Members have either not received a “Call” to a ministry or have not followed through on the call they have received.  If you talk to people who are not serving in any ministry position in your church the common answer for “Why are you not serving?” is “I don’t know what to do,” or “no one has asked me to serve.”  Unfortunately, most Pastors and Ministers do not know what you are called to either.

2. Members burn out because they either do not believe in, or have a passion for, the ministry or task they are performing in your church.  As the Church, the organization, we have a responsibility to lead members into using the passions they have in serving God.  Why did Jesus tell Peter, James and John that he wanted to make them fishers of men?  Because they loved fishing, they were passionate about it.  Notice that Jesus never called any of his disciples to do ministry that they were not passionate about or in which they were not skilled.

3. Give people freedom to minister.  Too often, I find people doing the work the Pastor or Missions committee believes in but the church body does not share the same level of commitment.  Why is that?  Is it lack of leadership or a desire for too much control?  Should we be afraid of letting our members do the ministry to which they have been called?  When Jesus sent the 72 disciples out in Luke 10 he did not limit them in any way.  He taught them and then empowered them to do ministry.  He trusted them to do what the Spirit led them to do.

4. People get burned out and drop out when they are serving in a ministry for which they are poorly prepared.  Have you had the experience of getting people to fill a slot because you have to have so many people on a committee or in a ministry role but knowing they did not have any skills or desire necessary to be successful in that ministry position?  If you have been in ministry long, you must have seen this in your churches.


Dr. Ranier is correct when he points out that some churches need to get rid of outdated programs or ministries that no longer are viable.  With such limited resources, the Church must define itself and pour resources into productive efforts and ministries. 


So how do we find the workers to carry out these ministries?  The answer if not as hard as we try to make it.  Business has known for a long time your best employees are those that believe in the product or service they make or sell and have a passion for what they build, sell or produce.  Employees that are informed of the goals of the company  and the benefit for reaching that goal are also the best producing employees and finally, employees that are trained or have a history in the area of work are also the best employees.


So the question is, why don’t we learn these lessons and apply them to the work of ministry?


Some churches have tried to use Spiritual Gifts Inventories to give members a look into their spiritual makeup and help them as they seek out ministry opportunities.  Many churches find these frustrating because after the assessment there is no means of guiding a person to a ministry that matches their gifts.


Passions inventories are much the same.  Either the passions are too limited and do not truly reflect the person and the life issues about which they are truly passionate. 

Can you name the people in your church that are passionate about Facebook, Twitter or Linked in?  How would you use these passions in performing ministry and missions?  Who is passionate about cooking, writing, singing, sewing or any other activity that are people engage themselves?  Again, the traditional assessments do not measure these passions or assist the Pastor or Church in guiding people to a real ministry opportunity.


New software can now be utilized by the church organization that provides insight and guidance for church ministers to help members find an appropriate area of service. 

AIM can identify a person’s Passions from a list of 202 unique activities http://aiministry.com/passions


                Spiritual Gifts Inventories based on 7, 9, 16, 20 or 23 gifts (your choice) http://aiministry.com/spiritual-gifts-definitions


                156 Skills in 9 categories clearly identify what your church member know and how they work in your organization.   http://aiministry.com/skills-definitions


                291 Vocations and job history complete the assessments.   http://aiministry.com/vocation


The most exciting feature of this software is the ability to generate a Ministry Profile that actually searched a database of 275 ministry opportunities and determines the best matches for an individual.


Now, does this mean you have to have all these ministries?  NO!   But, you now have a tool that gives you tremendous insight into your members and what they are Equipped for, Skilled in, Passionate about and Gifted.  This has never been available before but churches that can define their mission and equip their opportunities with members that are Skilled, Passionate, Gifted and prepared through past vocations, will see volunteers that will have fewer people dropping out due to burn out.


For more information visit http://aiministry.com or email dale@aiministry.com

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A Reboot at Age 80

Not long ago, my computer froze up. As I always do in such cases, I called the IT Department in desperation.

“Have you tried rebooting?” they immediately asked.

Doesn’t it seem like that’s always the first solution when your computer—or your life—gets stuck? You have to reboot in order to function properly again.

That got me thinking about my life these days. While many things are going great, in other ways I’m sure I could use a reboot.

But I couldn’t help wondering: Is a reboot even possible at my advanced age?

Fortunately, the Bible answers that question. Some of its great heroes were even older than me when God rebooted their life and gave them greater fulfillment and impact than ever before.

One of these leaders was Moses. He spent the first 40 years of his life growing up in the lap of luxury in Pharaoh’s palace. But after killing an Egyptian one day, he ended up fleeing to the backside of the desert, where he spent the next 40 years herding sheep.

By the time he reached 80, Moses had an uneventful, unexciting life. He was stuck in the wilderness, both literally and metaphorically.

Little did he know that everything was about to change…

In Exodus 3 the Lord suddenly appeared in the midst of a burning bush. This started out as a mere novelty but turned out to be an encounter that would transform Moses’ life forever. His mundane, ordinary existence was rebooted into something extraordinary and world-changing.

Although I’m not 80 yet, I can see it from here. I think I might be ready for my burning bush, and perhaps you are as well.

I encourage you to read Exodus 3 for yourself, but here are a few observations that might spark your own burning-bush experience:

  1. We all need fresh fire from time to time. Moses’ experience ignited new passion and vision in his life. But notice that this reboot was based on a supernatural experience, not just something Moses gained from reading a self-help book.
  2. God wants us to be on-fire for Him, yet without burning up. Moses was startled that the bush seemed to have an inexhaustible energy source (vs. 2-3). We live in the most burnt-out generation in history, desperately needing the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with new energy as we learn to abide in Christ (John 15:1-5).
  3. God knows our name and where to find us. After 40 years, it’s likely that most of Moses’ friends and family back in Egypt had lost track of him. But the Lord knew exactly where he was and what he was doing. In fact, his 40 years of taking care of sheep was Moses’ God-ordained training ground to prepare him for a much bigger task ahead.
  4. When God calls, we must make ourselves available. After hearing the Lord call out from within the bush, “Moses, Moses!,” the immediate reply was, “Here I am” (v. 4). We’re never going to experience much of a reboot unless we’re ready to listen to God’s call and be available for the new mission He has for us.
  5. If our new assignment is truly from God, it will almost surely be overwhelming. The Lord told Moses he was being sent to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, where they had been in slavery for more than 400 years. What a daunting, seemingly impossible, task! Moses asked, just as we surely would, “Who am I…?” (v. 11). It took some convincing, but eventually Moses recognized that God was capable of giving him success in this incredible new venture.
  6. No reboot is complete without a new revelation of the nature of God. We will never complete our mission unless we’ve had a genuine encounter with the living God. The Lord told Moses He was “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (v. 6). But that fact wasn’t good enough for Moses, nor will it be for us. Why? Because a reboot can’t be based on secondhand faith or a spiritual legacy from our ancestors. Instead, the Lord revealed Himself as the present-tense God, with a most unusual name: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14).

If you find yourself in need of a reboot today, it must start with a vital question: Do you have a present-tense relationship with God, or just memories of past experiences? If you’re going to BE who He has called you to be, you must know He’s with you now as your great “I AM.”

Even if find yourself stuck today, hanging out in the wilderness for months or years, God is the one who can give you…

  • Fresh fire—supernatural enablement that will keep you from burning out.
  • A new and exciting mission—but one you can only accomplish with His help.

Someday you’ll look back, as Moses eventually could do, and you’ll realize that God had a sovereign purpose in every experience He’s brought you through. Every step of the way, He was preparing and equipping you for such a time as this. 

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Avoiding Burnout


“To persevere, trusting in what hopes he has, / is courage in a man. The coward despairs.” [Euripides, 422 B.C.]


Love’s eternal flame is inextinguishable—death’s horrors are unable to kill it; life’s busyness cannot suffocate it; demonic opposition will not quench it; fear never overshadows it; worry only intensifies it; hell’s hatred will not disturb it. The fire of God’s passion for life never cools; the light of God’s presence never dims.


God stirs the flame of eternal hope in our hearts—quickening the spark of love into worship, fanning faith into service. The fire on our heart’s altar may flicker in doubt’s wind, but God expects us to tend the flame for His honor.


Living as a child of the Light is never easy. Lesser lights attract us, but we should keep in mind that evil advertises pleasure but poisons the soul; it promises illumination but delivers insanity.


We can refuel zeal by drawing on Christ’s infinite strength. We can burn fervently for God by relying on His Holy Spirit energizing our soul. Walking with the Light of the world we learn the secret of surviving tough times with equanimity, taste the recipe of invulnerable joy, and find reasons to sing an uninterrupted praise song through all our days.


Here are heaven’s directions for avoiding burnout—place ego on the altar, letting self-centeredness be consumed by the blaze of absolute holiness; never allow devotion’s fire to be extinguished, proving our love for God by undying obedience; surrender to God’s holy purpose, daring to be His fuel. If we follow our Lord’s orders, He will transform us into “a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35) that will never burn out.


Johnny R. Almond

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

[This devotion based on Day 62 of Gentle Whispers]

Interim Pastor, Nomini Baptist Church; Montross, Virginia


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When a Preacher Doesn't Feel Like Preaching

I love preaching even more than I like breathing, eating, or taking a walk on the beach. So it was very strange recently when I found myself having absolutely no desire to preach.

What could the problem be?

Of course, some pastors preach every Sunday and are simply burnt out. I could never keep that kind of schedule again. But since I haven’t preached in several months, burnout clearly isn’t my problem.

Another part of my melancholy over the issue is the fact that things didn’t go well the last time I preached. Every pastor has faced this at one time or another. Your sermon is a dud on Sunday, and by Monday you’re thinking of switching careers.

At other times, a preacher may simply be experiencing spiritual dryness. It’s horrible trying to preach a message to others when you yourself feel empty and disconnected with God.

And a similar phenomenon occurs when there’s some kind of emotional trauma going on in your personal life—such as a trial in your health, finances, family, or relationship with church members. It’s no wonder you don’t feel much like preaching when you’re bleeding inside.  

Whatever the cause may be, it sure helps if you have a friend or two to share your angst with. With some prayer, wise counsel, and encouragement, your perspective usually can be restored much quicker than you think.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on Jeremiah’s decision to quit preaching and prophesying. It’s hard to blame him, really. He was delivering lots of bad news to the people of Judah, and all he got in return was ridicule and rejection.

Finally, Jeremiah decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Why waste his words on people who responded with such contempt?

However, when he considered taking a preaching vow of silence, that didn’t go well for him either:

If I say I’ll never mention the Lord
    or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
    It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
    I can’t do it! (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT)

What a dilemma this mighty prophet faced. When he boldly declared God’s message, no one responded in a positive way. Instead, he became a laughingstock.

But when he determined to simply shut up, he found himself in even more agony. God’s Word inside him was like FIRE in his bones! After becoming utterly worn out when he tried to hold it in, he finally said in exasperation, “I can’t do it!”

I don’t know what you are going through today. Perhaps you are tired of speaking out. Maybe you’ve given up making any real difference in people’s lives.

Yet my prayer is for God to ignite such fire in your bones that you won’t be able to remain silent. No longer will you hold back. No longer will you just go through the motions.

If you are dealing with burnout, I pray you will get the rest and renewal you need. If you’ve been wounded, I pray you will discover God’s healing balm. And whatever it takes, may the Lord restore the joy of your salvation and passion for your calling (Psalm 51:10-13).

May you feel the FIRE again, my friend. We need to hear God’s Word from your lips.

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