That's when I realized I was in trouble.
I'm sitting in Leawood, Kansas at the Church of the Resurrection, I think the largest UMC in the denomination. I'm not sure. This week nearly 2000 church leaders are sitting in this room, waitng to learn how to be better leaders.
The band warmed up. Worship started. The audio was perfect. The lights went down. The lyrics popped on the screen. Everything that we have thought was important for great, progressive, cutting edge worship was in place.
As I sat here, it hit me...nothing. I felt nothing. Instead I was looking around at the folks who were trickling in. I was thinking about all of the things I needed to do when I get back. I don't sleep well on the road and the last two nights have just reinforced that. I had absolutely nothing as worship started.
The warm fuzzies that have kept me going for the last 17 years were cold. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Then I thought, "I'm in trouble. I mean, really in trouble. Something is bad wrong."
I've been trying, honestly. I've cut back on time spent in the office. I'm trying to find my joy in the things I used to do. I'm trying to take time for self care, you know, a regular day off, Sabbath rest, less of the unhealthy and more of the healthy. But...I just now realized that I'm not sure it's working.
Now, let me clarify, I love my job. I love the church I serve. We are doing things as a group that I've not seen done in a lot of other churches. We're reaching people that others don't want anything to do with. I love my God, and I'm thankful for the call on my life. I can't imagine ever doing anything else, except for the occasional day when I'd trade my church keys for a burger stand on the side of the road. Hey, it happens. I just own it.
But...I know I'm not alone in realizing that sometimes the warm fuzzies go cold. We burn out. We crash. We don't feel the same we did when this ministry gig was new. We may even find ourselves questioning whether or not we even need to be doing it. Then we have a moment where we that realization slaps us in the face, and we have a decision to make...
Do we keep pushing, knowing that we are operating at the very edges of our limitations? Folks, that's ego. Pure and simple.
Or, do we take that moment of realization, that epiphany, the revelation that maybe something is out of whack, and use it as a catalyst to begin some major changes in our lives?
Let me get real for a minute. If you are a church leader, as I am...and if you are not taking the necessary time to take care of yourself...I'm not either...you are doing your people, your family, your denomination, the kingdom, yourself, and the God who called you a great disservice.
We are not all that and a bag of chips.
There are people in our churches who can do some of the things we think we have to do, and they can do them well. Let them.
I know your type. I am one. I know how passionate you used to be about your calling. I know how hard you worked to get through school and jump through all of the hoops. I know how many meals get interrupted by phone calls, and how many vacations get cut short because of emergencies.
I get it.
I know how you've laid awake at night worrying about how your church was going to make budget, or about the metrics, or why folks are leaving. I know what is going on in your head, and how you think that if you just work a little harder, or a little longer, or if you do this or that, things will get better. Well, guess what...it's not about you...or me. We are tools God is using to build the kingdom.
I know that you may be thinking now, "I'm not feeling it as much either, lately." Why are you not feeling it? My guess is that, like me, you've been running on empty for so long that you can't remember what it's like to serve out of your passion. Instead you've become an empty vessel, still trying to pour out for others what you no longer have for yourself. Know what? You (we) can't do it.
I want it back. I want that feeling and that passion back. I want to serve my God and my church out of the passion I had in the beginning. But...for me to do that, for me to reclaim that place, there are some things that have to change. I'm not answering my phone after 5 or 6 at night unless it's an emergency. I'm going to fight the urge to go check into the office on my day off. I'm working on a plan that will let me take the entire month of January off for renewal. I've had to save vacation for it, but I honestly think that it will be worth it.
I'm not a touchy feely kind of guy, even though I'm probably more emotional than most guys. I have, however, learned to pay attention to those gut feelings, and today, this is what that gut feeling said, "Jamie, you're in trouble. Fix it. Now."
So church leader, you're doing great things. Your people need you, but they need you to take care of yourself. If you're struggling with some of the things I've talked about here, send me a facebook message. We'll talk.
Ya know, even just writing all of this down makes me feel a little better. Hopefully this is the beginning of my own personal rediscovery. Hopefully, you've seen yourself in this and will become intentional about your own. The kingdom is counting on us.