I’m thrilled to share my interview with Lance Witt of Replenish Ministries with you. Lance is the author of Replenish, a book dedicated to helping church leaders identify burnout and pursue emotional health. Burnout is a topic we talk about extensively with both clients and candidates here at Vanderbloemen, so I was excited to ask Lance for his wisdom regarding the issue.
A key part of your ministry and book, Replenish, is having a proper attitude toward one’s ministry. Why is attitude so important?
Because Jesus taught us that the Christian life is “inside out.” Proverbs 4 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Nothing is more important than guarding the attitude of your heart.
The analogy I like to use is that of the front stage and back stage. Front stage is the public world of leadership. It is where the spotlight is on us and where we use our leadership gifts. The front stage is seductive, and it’s often the place where we find our significance and identity. However, the back stage is the private world of the leader. The back stage is dark, usually messy and people usually aren’t allowed there. There is no spotlight on the back stage. I would call the back stage the “soul” of the leader.
And, according to Jesus, the condition of the back stage will ultimately inform what happens on the front stage.
In the last 25 years, we have put so much emphasis on leadership, vision, strategy and impact that we have inadvertently de-emphasized the priority of caring for our souls. And the result is that we have a lot of pastors who are better leaders, but whose back stage is a mess.
At the beginning of your book, you say, “After being in local ministry for 30 years, I understand why leaders walk away. I understand why they can be disillusioned and cynical. I understand why those who used to be filled with vision and passion are empty and filled with resentment and regret. I get it.” What are the most common reasons you see church leaders walking away from ministry?
The most common reasons I see are disillusionment and discouragement. Pastors by the droves struggle with feelings of failure.
Our intoxication with church growth has led us to infer that unless your numbers are all up and to the right, you are not an effective pastor. The truth is that some pastors have been called to pastor in hard places where the chances of seeing much numerical growth is slim.
I fear we have replaced “faithfulness” with “external fruitfulness” as the ultimate measure of a pastor. Add to that the pressure that many pastors feel to be CEOs, dynamic communicators, organizational leaders, fundraisers, caring counselors, staff managers and social media experts, and some just finally give up.
But I think there may be an even deeper problem.