Identity

Ministry: Doing or Expressing

I am finding Christians who desire to serve God becoming more drained and exhausted. Looking at this as an emerging symptom or pattern of a growing problem in some church settings, I spent some time pondering this and seeking input from others.

Why so many weary Christians?

Growing churches rely on members to serve at each service when the Body of Christ gathers. Whether the church meets in temporary facilities or permanent, people are serving to prepare the location for worship. From the greeters who welcome people, setting the stage to show that one can find a comfortable, warm, accepting place to encounter God. There is a place or their children to be safe and cared for while Mom and Dad worship through music and God’s Word.

Behind the scenes are many volunteers working hard so that the message of the risen Jesus can speak to the needs of each in attendance. Child care, Sunday school teachers, servers at the fellowship center who hand out coffee, the ushers who find seating and collect the offering, those in the media center, all contribute to what people see of God’s love in the volunteers serving out of personal commitment to Christ.  The love of God is shown in the interactions with attendees as a practical application of the message the Pastor shares–“love God to have a relationship with Him, love one another to build relationships with others for growth and healing, and make disciples to grow the body of Christ through mature believers sharing the Gospel with others and as a result growing the Church in anticipation of the Lord’s return.

All this activity is so important. It is an expression of an active faith that reflects God’s people seeking to do His Will.

But serving can become tedious if care is not taken! We can become so caught up in “doing” service for God and lose sight of the initial reason be we began to serve.

We were first motivated to serve for the opportunity to “express” our faith in a tangible way. That desire to express had an energy of its own that came from deep within our spirit because of our gratitude to Christ for all we receive from Him.Paul writes:

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”  (Galatians 6:9 NLT)

Serving From Our Core Being

If you have followed any of my posts, you recognize the phrase–“Core Self.” Our identity as human beings comes from the image of our Creator who formed us in His likeness. Jehovah said to Moses, “I Am that I Am” asserting His being, His existence. When in the moment we assert our existence to others, like “I am Lowell,” we are in the moment and expressing from who we are as God intended. Our Core identity is in the present very mindful of our desire to please God.

When our social interactions influence us to worry more about what others think of us and govern our actions by their expectations, we function from our Relational identity. Our motivation is to “do” life to keep those around us happy with us. Think of the amount of energy your brain expends trying to please others. It is draining.

The Answer to the Energy Crisis

So the answer to the question why Christians grow weary in serving God, comes from what motivates us in our service. As we function intentionally from our Core identity, we are in the moment looking forward to expressing our love for our Creator and Savior. Core identity is refreshed by expressing praise, worship, service, fellowship, and prayer. The more we live life from our Core being, we experience in our walk with and for God the life spring of water that flows within our inner being that comes from Jesus. What an amazing resource of refreshment that accompanies our faith expression.

But if you are being driven by your Relational identity, you are working hard to please. What fellow church members expect of us puts us in the mode of doing what we believe is expected. That kind of service involves wasting energy trying to figure out what will make us pleasing or acceptable to others. An underlying flaw in this approach says that we are flawed in the eyes of others and even God.

The transforming component of faith in Christ is that by His work on the cross, you and I are made whole. We are seen by the Father as Holy and pleasing to Him through our faith in His Son. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the believer’s life is manifest in the fruits of the Spirit-filled life as we find in Galatians 5:22.

But I find genuinely committed believers increasingly “burning out” from service and ministry. Within one’s heart is a commitment to Christ and a desire to minister in various forms of service. However, to become exhausted in serving God, one may have lost sight of expressing from one’s Core identity and resorted to a routine of doing what is expected, shifting into a Relational identity or mindset.

The Return to Energized Serving 

The first thing I want you to take from this is that I am posing a solution. I am not passing judgment on anyone who may be exhausted. To do so only leads people to get stuck in a loop of shame and guilt feelings, becoming even less able to experience the peace and joy that Christ gives. Remember, we are but flesh, we are human and have limitations.

Becoming Mindful Once Again.

When you consider the person in any ministry role who feels “driven” to serve, he is missing out on one basic human need. Do you know what that is? — It is to simply stop and take a breath. Remember that it was with the breath of God that you and I became living beings with a soul. That simple moment of mindful breath is a conscious return to the basic truth that through Him “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28 NIV)

The result of practicing that truth is to reclaim peace. That conscious, intentional breath overrides the brainstem and the limbic (emotional) brain’s reactions of intensity. Our Core self becomes executive which means that we return to rationale thinking rather than reactive thinking. Reactive thinking is exhausting because of all the messages we learned throughout life of what others expect. The Core self is tuned into what God anticipates from you and me who were hard-wired in His image.

Think on these verses:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  (Romans 8:6 NLT)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast,    because they trust in you.  (Isaiah 26: 3 NIV)

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.  (Isaiah 32: 17 NIV)

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.  (Isaiah 30:15 NIV)

Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.  (Ecclesiastes 4:6 ESV)

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.  (Psalm 62:5 NLT)

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.  (Psalm 46:10 NASB)

Expressing Gratitude

I am awestruck every time I see the secular world acknowledging behaviors that are hardwired into humanity because of the image of God. Over the past three decades, Buddhist psychology has included mindful gratitude as means to rise above troubling emotions and beliefs. The expression of gratitude comes from an intentional, conscious awareness of good things that happen in our life for which we can be thankful. Scripture has promoted gratitude or thanksgiving as an integral part of worship. Our expression of gratitude to God acknowledges that we know He exists and that He intentionally keeps His promises to us. By His promise keeping, He declares our existence and demonstrates His faithfulness.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17 NIV)

There is a hymn I cherish called A Thousand Thanksgivings. Since childhood, whenever I sing it, whether to myself or out loud, I make one change of the phrase “a thousand” to “ten thousand” or sometimes to  “a million.”  The hymn goes as follows:

Thou Life of my life, blessed Jesus,
Thou death of the death that was mine,
For me was Thy cross and Thine anguish,
Thy love and Thy sorrow divine;
Thou suffered the cross and the torment,
That I might forever go free –
A thousand, a thousand thanksgivings,
I bring, blessed Savior, to Thee!

When gratitude becomes an intentional expression, the relational self steps back and allows  our Core self to be in the moment.

The Source of Our Energy

This is a true, observable concept recognized by neurological science. When you are in your Core self, in the mindful moment, that is when you have energy. To function from the Relational self is when you are drained. Initially you may experience energy from the Relational self. But that is only at the first phase during which time the energy comes from living up to what others might expect.

When someone you respect or fear wants something from you, that driven mindset takes over. However, that source of energy cannot be sustained. It draws on your adrenal hormones and on cortisol production. The human body is worn down the longer you depend on that energy because its source is the emotional brain. The sympathetic nervous system is active because it perceives danger and must “fight or run” for survival sake.

When you become intentionally mindful and are functioning from your Core identity, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over. Your logical mind states truth that any danger is past or the perceived danger is not real. The calming aspect of truth on the physical system is to “rest and digest.” Calming does not take place until the Core self takes control away from the emotional brain.

The scribes writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit expressed this observable energy restoration as seen in the passages that follow.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.           (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)

…those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

The translation of the first phrase of verse from Isaiah 40 uses three different words which each reflect a small difference in how the Lord’s is viewed. “Hope,” “trust,” or “wait” may reflect different actions but in each case the bottom line is an act of faith in the Lord who is seen as our source of energy and restoration.

Wait is the one that I hear Christians often struggle with most. When we are desperate we want immediate relief. To wait implies to some of us that God is dangling the answer for energy in front of us until he wishes to give us what we need. This is not true. It flies in the face of who God truly is. In His lovingkindness, in His goodness, out of His grace and mercy, he knows are limitations and does not withhold. Since God alone through the work of Jesus Christ demonstrates His love to us, we can trust that “…he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (Psalm 103:14 NLT)

For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right. (Psalm 84:11 NLT)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)

Applying This

I would encourage you to take the simple steps we have discussed. Start with period of conscious intentional mindful breathing. Then express gratitude. These steps will bring you to become more executive in your mind and hear from your Core being. As you do take note of how much more energy you have to draw on from our Wellspring of Life, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Become enthralled by the idea. In other words let this process captivate you and bring you to awe as you experience restoration and renewed energy while you seek to serve Him from your Core being.

Please write to me at lroutley@coreintegrity.org. Let me know how these thoughts are of help to you. Thank you

Lowell

 

Photo by Joseph.Morris

Share your encounter with AWE