I am hearing about more and more pastors getting burned out due to ongoing issues related to the pandemic and leaving their churches. The past twelve months have been the most challenging in ministry for many fellow pastors. In reading in 1 Chronicle 17:16-27, I am reminded of David’s prayer as he comes before God in six steps to renew his spirit. Pastor, before you give up on the calling God has placed in you, spend some time following these six steps and allow God to renew your spirit so you can be ready to lead your local church.
Step 1: Get along with God.
Get alone with God. It seems so easy to say, but it is hard for many leaders to get alone with him. How many times as a leader have you opened the Bible only to get a phone call? How many times have you sat in your favorite chair to pray, and your family walks into the room? How many times have you gone into the sanctuary to pray, only to have a member come by and talk? Distraction has become a tool of the devil to steal our alone time with God. Getting alone with God must be distraction-free. Find a secluded prayer spot and only tell your spouse or church secretary where you will be, and the time you will be gone, so there is accountability and be distraction-free. Leave all your electronic devices behind but take a notebook, Bible, and pen/highlighter with you, so you are prepared to journal what God says or what you feel the spirit reveals on your heart.
As you enter this space, begin by clearing your mind of distractions and any thoughts hindering you from praying. Focus on your breathing, a Bible verse, and prepare your mind, body, and spirit to receive what God has for you until all distractions pass.
Step 2: Download your heart to renew your soul.
The burdens that pastors carry can become overwhelming and debilitating. They have no one to speak to for many, no one they fully trust with their darkest secrets. Instead of internalizing the flock’s stress and other needs that arise in the pastor’s life, spend time downloading what is on your heart to open the spirit to receive what God has for you. Pastors are learning more and more that they are not superhuman. Their struggles are natural, and demonic forces want nothing more than to hold them back from being who God has created them to be. If the mind goes negative, the spirit will follow over time. By connecting with God daily and sharing the struggles with him, the pastor will be more apt to rebound from negative feelings and adapt more quickly to what the spirit is leading him towards in the end. In his prayer, David taught that his past would not become his final resting place but would be a place to learn and grow. In downloading, you release the past and are ready to receive soul renewal for the future.
Step 3: The one you pray to must be bigger than the problem you pray for.
In the David prayer, the reader hears David’s heart and begins to understand that the problems that were overcoming him were not as big as the God he served. Pastor, your situation is small compared to the God you serve. Far too many are allowing the problem to overwhelm them and steal their joy for ministry. The God who called you is the God that will sustain you if you trust that he is bigger than the most significant problem you face. Each day pastors face a host of issues they are called on to solve. If the pastor is not praying daily, the problems begin to build up in their mind and overtake their spirit and steal their joy. By laying the burdens of the pastor’s office at the feet of Christ daily, the pastor can be free from the struggles and see the bigness of God all around them. In this space, God comforts, provides, and makes tangibly known his presence.
Step 4: Ask for your promise.
What is it that you need today in your life and ministry? What is the foremost thing that if God could take from you or move on your behalf, it would free headspace in your life? David’s prayer reminds the reader repeatedly to ask for the promises that God has placed on your heart. Pastor, are you someone who feels you can do it alone? If so, you are heading for a fall. God wants to help. God wants to provide. God wants to fulfill the promises that he placed inside of you. When you are alone with God and have prayed for your need, begin to ask for your blessing, to see what God sees in you. David was not a perfect leader and failed God on many fronts, but yet strived every day to be better while being bold enough to keep asking God for things that God had promised him. What has God promised you that you have not asked about in awhile? Begin to ask. Begin to call forth the promises of God and watch how he begins to show up.
Step 5: Thank God for what he has done, is doing, and will do in the future.
In the quiet time of being alone with God, begin to write down in your prayer journal all the areas where God showed up and provided a blessing in the past. Celebrate what God has done. Praise him out loud for seeing you through those trying times. Then begin to write down where God is at work today in your life and thank him for showing up and providing away. Then start to dream and allow what has long been buried to come to pass and thank him in advance for what he is about to do. Leaders often focus on today rather than celebrating the past, evaluating the present, and thanking God in advance for what he is doing. Pastor, do not get stuck in how you feel today, as that will not dictate God’s promise for your future ministry. Thank God today for what he has done, is doing, and will do in the future through prayer.
Step 6: Claim your victory over your prayers.
Do you believe what you pray? Do you think getting away will renew your soul? David had to evaluate his own prayer life after falling prey to the world’s ways. As he moved closer to God, he began to claim victory over his prayers, which enabled him to move on from his past. When a leader has fallen into a self-doubt cycle, they must break free from the past. Claiming their prayers to God are being answered. Begin to claim victory of oppression and depression. Claim victory over the struggle within the church. Claim victory over forces coming against you in Jesus’ Name. God that is before you is far greater than the evil that is coming against you. Claim the mantle of Christ by seeking His will for your ministry through prayer. Claim the mantle of obedience by following what God has asked you to do. Begin now, even before this article is over, to claim what God has for your life and ministry.
David’s life is a testament that we can fall short of God’s plan for our lives, and he will still renew our path if we are willing to take steps toward him daily. Coming before the Lord should not be a part of a ritual on Sundays but part of your daily walk to build the relationship that God so seeks with you. Pastor, if you feel like you want to give up and walk away from ministry, try these six steps for renewal before God for the next 90-days and allow God to speak to you fresh and anew.
Dr. Desmond Barrett is lead pastor at Summit Church of the Nazarene in Ashland, Kentucky.