Burnout and Boredom

John Maxwell, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, writes about the leadership law of “The Big Mo” – referring to Momentum.   I believe that momentum is the catalyst which will make or break a team or congregation.  You can hit the gas on a big-rig, and it takes some time to get it up to speed, but put it in neutral and let off the gas and it will take a lot longer for it to come to a stop on its own than it took to get it to go.  However, that truck is going nowhere further than it will coast if you don’t get it back in gear and hit the gas.  Why?  Because momentum is finite.

I’m seeing a damaging trend in the Body of Christ these days.  You’ll see it most following a church-wide evangelism effort (your church has those, don’t they?), a building project, or something else that gets people excited about working.  You’ll see everyone pull together to get the grass cut, make sure the floors are shiny, tell people about Jesus, and bring excellence to what they do.  They’ll bust their “blessed assurance” and bring wonderful sacrifice to the ministry during these pushes.  Then after they’ve done that particular task, they’re back on their “blessed assurance” doing nothing until the whole thing comes coasting to a stop and everyone gets in crisis mode scrambling to get some excitement back in the body.

On the individual level, the people who are working hard doing Kingdom work are never happier than they are while they are busy.   Then when the work is “done”, they come crashing down to ground and all of the sudden they say they are tired and burned out.   My concern is that they are equating burnout to boredom.  (WHAT?!!). My question is “is it burnout, or is it boredom?”

What is boredom?  Boredom is the lack of challenge.  Doctors who know what they are talking about will tell you that what makes ADHD kids “normal” is challenge.  Many ADHD kids have nothing wrong with them except they are B-O-R-E-D. (I could go on and on about the lack of physical excersize and how lazy we’ve made our youth by putting tv’s and video games in front of them instead of making them play ball or help around the house).  You give them something that will challenge their minds and bodies and occupy them, they will level out.   Being bored is like sitting in neutral coasting to a stop.  Eventually you go nowhere.  All someone who is coming down from a momentum boost needs is to get back to work.

Burnout is a different story.  Burnout is when you are all gung-ho on the gas pedal screaming that truck up to 100mph and you get halfway up a mountain (your perception of the Lord’s work) and run out of fuel.  The question here is, “whose fault is it that you ran out of fuel?”  You can blame it on the pastor or your leaders all you want to, but you have to know, you can’t go but so far between fill-ups.  It’s your responsibilty to keep yourself fed daily consuming the Word and in the Presence of God.  People who get burned out get mad and blame their leadership for “allowing” them to get burned out, thus totally missing why they burned out – setting themselves up for failure next time they get all excited about doing something for the Lord.

For both burnouts and bored folks, you have to realize that coasting on a moment of sacrifice from yesterday will bring you to a hault.  Today’s work brings tomorrow’s momentum.  What happens to the next day’s momentum if you don’t work tomorrow?  You’ll wind up back to where you were today!

You have to learn how to keep yourself fed while continuously pouring out.  I’m going to leave the big rig comparison for a moment here… Jesus said in John 7:38 – “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  Notice He didn’t say you’d be a lake or a swamp.  Why?  Because He never intends on us being a holding tank. He intends on us being a river by which life is carried through us from the Holy Spirit to those who are lost.  If nothing is being poured in, the river dries up eventually and there will be nothing left to be poured out.  If you do nothing but take in, and not pour out, you will become a stagnant swamp.

Back to my momentum subject… Many reading this may be just coming out of a successful event or a push doing the work of the Lord.  Don’t let off the gas pedal and coast.  There’s much work left to do.  There’s a great harvest of souls to be won, hurting people to touch, and many other things to do.  Pull over, get fueled up and hit the gas for the next set of mountains so you don’t sit idle overfilling your tank – I’ll see you on the way!

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One thought on “Burnout and Boredom

  1. dean says:

    i like this… i feel like you know exactly what you are talking about having just wrapped up your church’s back ministry. i often use the illustration of the jordan river, the sea of galillee and the dead sea. sea of gallilee is full of life because the river flows THROUGH it, but the dead sea is, well DEAD because it takes in from the river but doesnt have an outlet… stagnant and dead.

    anyway, thanks for the admonition!

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