The answer is “herd humility.”
The question is, “What’s the solution to church worker burnout?”
C. S. Lewis said of the truly humble person, “He will not be thinking about Humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
Jesus described the kind of “herd humility” that he expected of his servants, particularly those called into the ministry of the Word. The rescue of the world is the responsibility of the Lord alone. His Spirit, his Word, is the power of salvation. Servants of the Word are merely waiters at the table, bringing Living Water and the Bread of Life to a hungry world.
After performing our assigned task of waiting tables, Jesus asked how we might expect the Master to respond. “Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’.” (Luke 17:9-10)
Elijah got in trouble when he lost perspective.
He forgot who was the power at work in the ministry of the Word. He prayed on Mount Carmel, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be know today that you are God in Israel…” (so far, so good) “and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.” (1 Kings 18:36)
When I think of my own times of vocational distress, those times when the joy of ministry was slipping away, it was clearly those times when I had been thinking, “I’ve got this!” I’m convinced, through my conversations with hundreds of ministers, that sinful pride and confidence in self is the triggering attitude that sets in motion the downward spiral of clergy brokenness, misbehavior, and exit from the ministry.
We could significantly halt the spread of the epidemic of church worker burnout with a protecting inoculation of “herd humility” in our ranks.
Paul modeled humility to the Corinthians.
Chapters 1-4 of his first letter is a beautiful testimony of a kingdom worker who knows his place in God’s design. At the heart of it he writes, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
And Luther taught us to pray for humility.
“Lord God, You have appointed me in the church as bishop and pastor. You see how unfit I am to attend to such a great and difficult office, and if it had not been for Your help, I would long since have ruined everything. Therefore I call upon you.
“Of course, I want to put my mouth and heart to use. I shall teach the people, and I myself shall learn and shall meditate diligently on Your Word. Use me as Your instrument. Only do not forsake me; for if I am alone, I shall easily destroy everything.”
May our great God bless us all with the gift of herd humility.
Thanks for reading.