Ministry to Pastors at RISK: Bummed Out But Not Burned Out “But Watch Out…”

Pastor-In-Residence"At-Risk" Pastors, Burnout, ReviewsLeave a Comment


“Then Ricky got really sick. He lived about four months, I guess, and nothing seemed to work with him. I’ve  never had such pain in all my life…my wife began to get bitter at God and I could hardly blame her” (pg. 31). Harry was grieving disappointments even before the untimely death of his son. He was already weary of feeling like a failure in the ministry; his cup seemed half-empty not half-full.

This month is the fourth in an ongoing summary review of the book Pastors at RISK by Dr. Charles Wickman, founder of PIR. It’s about being “Bummed Out,” i.e. being discouraged but not quite to “burnout”. On pg. 22, Dr. Wickman states that being “bummed out” is “growing  tired of the dailyness of ministry,” a weariness, or restlessness. It seems to me that if being “burned out” is close to or actually depression, then being “bummed out” could be compared to being “blue.” Or perhaps the difference could be described as the difference between despair and a “bad day,” or between a dominating “Eeyore” attitude on life and ministry and an episode of negativity.

Dr. Wickman (pg. 23) lists some indications of being bummed out:

  1. joylessness
  2. procrastination
  3. being easily irritated
  4. a grass is greener attitude
  5. feeling useless or a failure
  6. having frien-emies real or imagined
  7. your wife is ready to leave you

He goes on to suggest a strategy of self care (pgs. 24-29):

  • setting boundaries
  • being accountable
  • focusing on self, not only others
  • casting cares on Him by faith
  • making God your joy and strength through intimacy with Him
  • meditating on the Person of God

Is not this list a good summary of what Jesus teaches in about abiding in John 15: 1-9?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

Can ministry/service for the King be based upon anything more or less than the normal ordinary use of the daily means of grace to draw near to the Lord?  I love Psalm 73:28: But for me it is good to be near God;  I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. This verse connects intimate dependence upon the Lord with the faithful and fruitful ministry of proclaiming Jesus and Him crucified. My point is further illustrated by the choices of Martha and Mary (Luke 10: 38-42).

I wish Harry and his wife had had friends in the church who were not just “allies” in the mission of the church, but “confidants” or “intimates”.  These would be brethren who would empathetically bear their burdens with them without recrimination, loving them unconditionally with God’s grace. From what I read of their story they seemed to me so isolated.

The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit is not just being harnessed together like mules going up one row and down another saying:  we are together.  Sadly Harry said: “The first time I was asked to tell my story was…you guessed it…when Chuck asked me to write this piece” (pg. 31). If the people that make up the church are not a “safe” place in this fallen world, what is? Lord have mercy and send Holy Ghost revival!

[May I suggest that individuals and groups might want to use the material in this book to equip your prayers for your pastor. Elder and Deacon boards could spend time reading and discussing the book together to be better equipped to love and care for their pastors. Some of us in the PIR ministry have used the chapter titles as an outline for adult Sunday School, ministerial gatherings, retreats, and other opportunities to teach and educate the church on how to support shepherds who are sheep too. Books are available from PIR Resources.]

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