Shepherd’s Care: A Crisis of Spirit

I was conducting a seminar at a Pastors’ School.  As we left the room for a break, one of the participants headed in my direction.  I recognized him as one of my former students.  I could tell by the look on his face that he had something he really wanted to talk with me about.

He wasted no time in getting to the point:  he was at a crisis point in his ministry.  He chronicled a slow decline from blessing to boredom–from support to opposition—and from meaning to burnout.  As he brought his story to an end, he said, “Steve, I know what to do; I just don’t want to do it anymore.”

When I heard that sentence, the Inner Voice spoke, “Steve, don’t miss what he just said; it’s the gist of the crisis in ministry today.  Clergy are not facing a crisis of skill; they’re facing a crisis of spirit.  Don’t let that fact escape you.”

My experience in ministry to ministers (and their families) for more than 20 years has only deepened that conviction.  We are blessed with a myriad of ways to address deficiencies in our skills, but often left alone to battle the depletion of our soul.  We can find ways to improve our performance, but struggle to find ways to renew and restore our personhood.  As another pastor put it, “Every week, my mailbox contains resources about having a better ministry, but almost nothing about being a better minister.”

Our enemies must be fought on the battlefields where they exist.  A crisis of spirit must be faced in terms of the spirit.  No amount of career adjustment can reach the depths of “knowing what to do, but just not wanting to do it anymore.”  A crisis of soul must be dealt with in our souls.  This recognition is not a compartmentalized or segmented approach to recovery; it is simply the acknowledgment of the source of our problems and our feelings.  The first step in spiritual re-formation (which is what it really is) is for us to open ourselves to God (Who is Spirit) and allow the Holy Spirit to sift, stir, and sort in the depths of our being.  Ours is not essentially a crisis of skill; it’s a crisis of spirit.  Each week, we will deal with ourselves at this level in this blog category.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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