Burnout #2

March 17, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

John 15:1-8.  I wrote a blog entry last fall called “Burnout in Ministry.”  It’s been one of the most visited entries I’ve written.  I wrote it in response to a discussion about burnout with the director of a college ministry.  Now I’ve been asked to speak at a retreat for the staff of that ministry on the topic of burnout.  I wrote then that burnout in ministry is always a result of relying on some resource other than God, though that reliance can take many forms.  I read this “Vine and Branches” passage in my devotions the other day and am now considering using it as a basic text for my talks at the retreat.

“If a man remains in me and I in him,” Jesus said, “he will bear much fruit.”  “If you remain in me and my words remain in you,” he added, “ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”  That’s the positive side of things, but on the negative side of the matter, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”  And “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers.”  That last phrase sounds like burnout.  In fact, as Christians describe their feelings of burnout in ministry, they often use words and metaphors very similar to these – thrown away, withered, fruitless.  Interestingly, Jesus added, “Such branches are thrown into the fire and burned!”

Notice that Jesus puts this metaphor in a context of reliance:  “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine;”  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.”  As a branch draws all its sustenance from the larger vine and is dead apart from it, so we must draw all our sustenance from Jesus.  Anything else will eventually end in burnout and ultimately amount to nothing.  As Jesus himself said,“Apart from me you can do nothing.”


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