You cannot give what you don't have. That statement rings true when it comes to Christian teaching. Many Christians are involved in teaching ministry, perhaps as a Sunday School teacher or a small group leader. Pastor's are especially engaged in the teaching ministry as the preaching of the Word is one of their primary responsibilities. Although I love to teach, I've come to the realization that it is a labor of love. The constant demand of preparing lessons, messages, sermons, blog posts, and the like are draining. They are not only taxing on the mind but also taxing spiritually. As teachers, if we are not careful our reservoirs of spiritual vitality can begin to get low as we give and give to others through our teaching ministry.
The great danger of Christian teaching is spiritual fatigue and exhaustion. As teachers if we are not resting and pouring into our own spiritual lives we can quickly find ourselves hating the very thing God has asked us to do. As a pastor I've experience this sort of spiritual fatigue first hand. There have been weeks where I have had three or four messages to prepare for that week. So how do we deal with spiritual exhaustion?
1. Take a Sabbath
Sometimes in teaching you just need to take a break for a week. Sometimes we expect ourselves to out do God never rest. We must sometimes rest to recharge our batteries. Confession time, this is difficult for me. So often I sinfully equate resting with laziness. There is nothing wrong with resting our minds and our hearts from having to constantly produce teaching material. Take that day a week to just rest and relax your mind and refresh your spiritual batteries. Spend extra time in the Scriptures seeking after God. Go for a long walk and just talk with God. When I begin to since spiritual exhaustion creep in, I quickly take an hour or two and just commune with God in prayer. It is amazing how the living water can quench our dusty throats.
2. Always be Learning and Studying
As a pastor, there are not a lot of people in my church who are teaching and instructing me. When spiritual exhaustion sets in, it is easy to get lazy in our thinking and just rely on personal hobby horses to get us through the next teaching engagement. Here I have learned the wonderful value of reading and studying. A good book is like a good conversation with a great mentor. You get to learn from other's wisdom and experiences. You get a fresh perspective and it stretches you spiritually. Another way I've begun to always be learning is through audio podcasts. Through the miracle of technology I am able to listen to some of the best preachers and teachers of our day. As I do I am able to be fed by other great pastors and teachers and I become encouraged in my spiritual life.
3. Find Great Community
Spiritual exhaustion thrives in isolation. Pastors and teachers need to learn to build community with other pastors and teachers who can pray for and encourage one another. Community is vital to our spiritual growth and is necessary in our lives. So often many teachers live in isolation although they may be surrounded by people. Developing good friendships with other teachers even outside of your church can be helpful in preventing spiritual exhaustion.
4. Remind Yourself of the Gospel
As a teacher it is so easy for me to begin to find my worth and identity in the content I produce and not in Christ. When this happens I must remind myself of the Gospel. God's acceptance of me has nothing to do with my performance but everything to do with Christ's performance. The moments I am most spiritually exhausted form the teaching ministry are the moments in which I begin to rely on my own strength and power as some twisted way to earn God's favor. In my spiritual exhaustion I must remind myself of my dependency on the righteousness of Grace and preach to myself the life giving good news.
Teaching is the greatest joy and the greatest privilege. It was Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said, "The work of Preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called." He is absolutely right, but it is also an incredible labor. When spiritual exhaustion begins to set in we must be quick to respond with the remedy of Christ's restoring grace. As we rely on His strength and His power the Word who became flesh will give us the words to proclaim His majesty, glory, and beauty.