Posts Tagged ‘Rest’

Nibbled to Death by Ducks?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 by James Flynn

Did you know that the ministry hazardous occupations can be hazardous to your health?  Dr. Gwen Halaas notes that in 1980, a study of 28,000 Protestant ministers from the 1950s showed that in every diagnostic category ministers lived longer than the average male, including those from other professions. A 1999 report of death certificates for ministers who died between 1982 and 1992 showed that ministers were in the top ten occupations to die from heart disease! In recent times, the high stress life and death issues that ministers face, coupled with complex leadership and relational problems, mixed with long hours and a sedentary lifestyle, have created a ticking health time bomb for ministers that can go off at anytime.

 Dr. Daniel Spaite specializes in the physical, mental, and spiritual dimensions of ministry and pastoral burnout. The underlying thought patterns that can lead to pastoral burnout are often related to a blatantly Gnostic concept of our humanity. The Gnostics drew a false distinction between the human body and spirit, treating the body as evil and the spirit as good. This concept disintegrates human beings into parts, rather than viewing them holistically. These Gnostic assumptions have crept into our Christian mindset for self care, often emphasizing the care of the spirit while diminishing the need to care for the body or soul as though they were somehow disintegrated from a person’s spiritual welfare, or worse, somehow sinful. 

The logical end of this kind of reasoning can be a neglect of physical well being in favor of spiritual pursuits. With this mindset, bodily neglect can actually become a virtue.  The “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality we have in the West only compounds the problem.  In the West, health is viewed as “the absence of disease.”  This kind of reactive model waits for something to “break” and then prescribes a cure to attempt to “fix it.” Most people would not adopt this kind of model for their car, believing preventive maintenance and proactive care to be a better way to preserve their investment. The reactive Western model of health works well with a Gnostic philosophy because it justifies concentration on spiritual things when the human body is not “broken.” A reactive mentality and lack of preventive maintenance eventually takes its toll by the lack of exercise, poor eating and sleeping habits common to ministers in their high stress profession. 

In the end, it is not usually the big things that take their toll on ministers, but rather the accumulated little stressors.   Robert H. Ramey (2000) calls this “being nibbled to death by ducks.”  Ducks don’t have teeth – all they can do is nip at you and annoy you. You feel the pinch, but it doesn’t usually break the skin.  Like ducks, the stress is a cumulative thing, and in ministry, there are an abundance of small stressful things that cumulatively exert a powerful and often deadly amount of stress on ministers and their families.

Iraneus said “The glory of God is a human being fully alive”.  Robert Barron asserts “At the heart of the original sin is the refusal to accept God’s rhythm for us”. When ministers abandon normal rhythms of physical life and willingly embrace impossible schedules that prohibit physical exercise, proper sleep, and enforce poor dietary habits, they set themselves up for personal, relational and professional disaster. Don’t live like a modern day Gnostic – respect your body and its needs.  Sort out what God is asking you to do, and what you are doing – you may find that His list is a lot shorter than your list.  Remember that Jesus already died for the church so unless He specifically asks you to do so, He already has that taken care of.

Locked in the Closet: Rob Bell on Pastoral Rest

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

In this video interview, Rob Bell talks about the need to balance his pastoral ministry with rest. Watch the video and then comment below:

In this video, as in his book Velvet Elvis, Rob talks about the rapid growth in his church and how that effected him physically, mentally and emotionally. In the book he writes the following about this troubling time where he hid himself away in a closet in between the first and second service at this church  (p. 104):

I was exhausted.

I was burned out.

I was full of doubt.

I was done.

I had nothing more to say.

After three straight years of working full time while in seminary, which will come to a culmination today at graduation, I often feel just this way, exhausted, burned out, full of doubt … through it all though, one of the best things I have learned in this process is the goodness of rest. Hard work without rest is just striving, but Jesus tells us that his yoke (not the stuff in eggs) is easy and his burden is light (Matt 11:30). The author of Hebrews tells us in chapter four that a major point of this Jesus thing is rest, not just in the eschaton, but right now! This doesn’t mean being lazy, on the contrary, rest is what happens after you have worked hard. The lazy do not rest, because they weren’t doing anything to begin with. But even God rested on the seventh day after his work, and if rest is good for God – it is for us too! Rest helps us to appreciate the work that we have just done. It helps us to regain perspective. Rest helps to reignite the fire that first got you doing whatever it was that you were doing. Rest is godly.

Do you feel burned out right now? How do you make time for shalom in your life?

If you don’t make time for shalom in your life, start today! It is the sabbath after all…