Thought it felt like it, things didn't suddenly go wrong in 2011. What I experienced that year was the consequence of what I had been doing for the previous 4 years. In short, I was doing too much for too long without resting. This is a common problem for pastors, and church planters in particular, who often find themselves in ministry they love without sufficient support or staff. Let me be clear and say throughout Redeemer's nearly five years of ministry we have had amazing elders and volunteers who worked very hard in service to and through the church. My problem was not enough help, my problem was me. Not only was I doing too much, I found it nearly impossible to "turn off" when at home. Though I have attempted to "unplug" over the years in various ways, I kept returning to bad habits. I was working in my mind when hanging with the kids, constantly checking my phone and email at all hours, working in the evenings instead of relaxing with my wife. Even though the church has always respected my day off, I did not. My day off was often used to get more ministry done. I was always "on," and never off. It eventually caused some serious short-circuiting in my body.
Getting healthy required me to see that it wasn't just what I was doing, but why I was doing it all. On this end of the experience I have a pretty good understanding of my motives, and here are the top three. As you can see they overlap quite a bit and have one sin common to them.
1. I believed I was the only one who could do "it." Sometimes this is true, especially in a young or small church. But even when it is true our goal as leaders must be to train up others who can also do the work. This, of course, is not just for our own health, but is our calling-- to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
I have come to learn that getting others ready to do the work is easier than I thought. In fact, most of the time I believe this struggle is a reflection of control issues. I may not be a "control freak" (or maybe I am) but I can definitely be uptight about how things should be done. Ultimately thinking that I'm the only one who can do something reflects the problem of pride, not the absence of help.
2. I was reluctant to ask for help even when I knew I needed it. This was first and foremost something wrong with my own internal wiring. I like to take care of my business on my own. Part of it is not wanting to be/appear lazy. Part of it was not wanting to put pressure on others. Yet pride was attached to all of my reasons, feeding and nourishing them.
3. I thought I should be able to handle more. I shared this earlier on the blog, but I found myself saying, "Joe, your church is too small for you to be feeling this amount of pressure. You can handle this, and more. Quit being a baby." Not seeing things as they truly are and maintaining an unrealistic picture of myself was pride, and it was ruining me.
It was only through the counsel of my wife and good men when I was at the end of my rope that I came to see that I am truly the weakest man I know, and must depend on God and others to carry out what he has called me to do. I'll explain more of that in a later post. For now let me just say I wound up in a bad place because of my own issues. And getting healthy wasn't as simple as repenting of pride. Much, much more would be required.
Many of us will go through periods of time when we have to do "too much," but when too much goes on for too long things get unhealthy very quickly. Be careful my friends. Next up I'll share some of the key people who helped my in specific areas, and begin unpacking how I have come to get healthy in 2012.