Don't get me started about the conflicting data on pastoral burnout and stress. Google any of the topics touching the rigors of spiritual leadership at any level and you'll be ushered into to the murky world of statistical research, Halo effect responses to oddly phrased questions, and confusing conclusions from people with biases and preferences, me included. Just as my book Finish.Period, Going the Distance in Ministry was going to the printer, I decided to defer to the statistics police and soften the hard numbers I had discovered when doing some background study internet style. It was apparent that many of studies I had relied on in developing a rationale for Finish.Period. were actually dated. Most of the material was accurate at a point in time. But, still, finding reliable numbers is difficult. Like most everything else, this kind of analysis depends on who's asking the questions and who's interpreting them.
Even without current, accurate data, we know that spiritual leadership is hard. Who needs facts and figures anyway, as if new data can strengthen the only reliable source of information, the Bible? From cover to cover it is testament to the authentic dangers of moving people to God's agenda (the Blackaby definition of Spiritual Leadership, B and H, 2001). It was a consistent theme as Jesus prepared the Twelve for kingdom service after his ascension. For example---
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves
Matthew 10:16, ESV
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise
up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all
because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be
Matthew 10:21-22, ESV
In the world you will have tribulation.
John 16:33, ESV
In the same way, read a few lines of any of Paul's letters for further verification of the hardships that spiritual leaders will encounter in fulfilling their roles.
Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three
times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked;
a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers,
danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger
in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in
toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often
without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the
daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28, ESV
How in the world, then, are mere humans to find the right stuff to fulfill such a demanding role? Education? Training? Personal resolve? Conferences? More books? Jesus explained this one too, and so did Paul. It is communion with Christ, the spiritual leader's source for the spiritual gifts that enable mission service.
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. John 15:4-5, ESV
Paul said it too, in another way. He wrote---
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in
me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20, ESV
The tragic reality is that so many pastors and spiritual leaders spend so little time in personal devotion, prayer, and Bible study beyond typical preparation and study required to teach and preach. One LifeWay study several years ago indicated that 39% of evangelical pastors spend less that four hours a week in personal devotion or, communion with Christ. We may have become the culture of empty suits because the trendy business models, marketing strategies, branding, and internalized church dynamics cannot give us what is needed for the strict demands of mission.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, "I must take care to cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace, mark that, yet it will be the channel of it." Christ has chosen to live in us. Communion with him should be a distinctive of our faith, the mark that sets his leaders apart from all others. Our deep fellowship with him prepares us for the assignment to which he has called us.
it is a basic of spiritual leadership.