The local newspaper in the city in which I live ran a feature article several weeks ago concerning a local, well-known pastor. About 10 years ago he planted a church in our city that quickly became very popular and grew rapidly. Within a matter of a few years the church embraced a strategy for growth that would establish additional congregations in various sections of the city. By the time the article was published the church consisted of a large “mother” congregation and five additional congregations scattered throughout the city. It had become a rather large church that attracted several thousand people at it services during the course of a typical weekend.

The feature article had a bombshell impact in our city. The big news was that the pastor had announced to the congregation on the previous Sunday that he was resigning. The reason: Burnout! He was simply exhausted, had lost his passion, and did not want to do the work of a pastor any longer. He needed to step away. The impression was that he would never return to the work of being a pastor, but would seek his livelihood by doing something else.

It is important that pastors allow themselves to be held accountable, and humbly accept and act on counsel given by trusted, wise, and faithful friends.

These kind of stories give us pause to reflect! What happened? What went wrong? Is it inevitable that strong pastors who are high achievers go up like a roman candle, create an impressive show, and then fizzle out? Does great vision, strong work ethic, effective leadership automatically result in the leader collapsing? These are questions that are worth pondering.

A friend of mine in the city reflected on it in his blog. His theory is that when one is called by God and functioning in the city of God’s will, he will continually be energized by God and will never burn out. The implication is that burnout is the result of functioning outside the will of God. I am not comfortable with that explanation or solution.

It is my conviction that the reason for burnout will vary from pastor to pastor depending on his temperament, circumstances, and the way he manages his life. I suspect that a high percentage of burnout victims are “driven” in their ministry, which is another way of saying that they are focused and highly energized by a particular motivation. Sometimes that motivation is highly personal and, in many cases, subconscious. I have known pastors who are subconsciously driven by a deep need for approval or acceptance. In some cases, it relates to parents. In other cases, it is peers or the congregation. Often, it is the strong need to be successful.

Whatever may be the at the root, being a “driven” person is never healthy, nor is it ever Godly. In fact, it is often rooted in sin and leads to brokenness, both personally with regards to physical and spiritual health, and relationally with regards to staff, family, and church leadership.

So, it is important that pastors allow themselves to be held accountable, and humbly accept and act on counsel given by trusted, wise, and faithful friends.