Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
What do you do when you’re doing too much? It’s a common question but one that God has provide clear answers for. In this episode of Sound Plus Doctrine, Bob and David begin a conversation on that topic and focus in on heart questions we need to ask.
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David Zimmer: Welcome to Sound Plus Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music, where we explore what the Bible has to say about music and worship in the church, and encourage those who plan, lead and participate in their Sunday gatherings each week. Hey, my name is David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: My name’s Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we are so happy that you can be with us for this podcast.
BK: We are overjoyed.
DZ: Yes, we are overjoyed.
BK: I mean virtually with us, they are not actually with us.
DZ: Yeah. It would be great though if they could be with us.
BK: It would be.
DZ: Bob, we were talking…
BK: Kinda crowded but…
DZ: [chuckle] We were talking this morning earlier today about this topic and the topic today is busyness and burnout in the context of ministry.
BK: Yes, we were.
DZ: I think we’ve covered a couple of topics in this podcast, and there have been certain topics that have felt like, wow, I hear a lot about this, and burnout is one of them. Busyness is one of them. Not even in ministry, but just in our own lives. We just…
BK: You mean people like talking to you?
DZ: Like friends of mine that are worship leaders…
BK: Yes, okay. Got it. Yeah, yeah.
DZ: In their context and guys that I’ve known over the years, that have been in situations where they’re their busy, their tight schedules have brought them to burnout. So I just, “Man, that would be applicable for today.”
DZ: And Bob, you’ve been in pastoral ministry in some form for how many years?
BK: 36, but if you count my years in GLAD, which I do, it’d be 44.
DZ: Yeah. Wow. So I would imagine that you’ve struggled with packing your schedule.
BK: Never, I pretty much have margins galore…
DZ: You figured it out.
BK: In my life and…
DZ: So wonderful.
BK: Yeah. I am a doer. I love to get things done. We were talking earlier today about, in one of our meetings about how many times you’ve stayed up all night? And a couple of people at the table said, I’ve never stayed up all night.
BK: [laughter] I just laughed and it’s like…
DZ: Yeah, and I was like, Have you been to college? [laughter]
BK: Well, they had been to college. And I just thought, I mean, I cannot remember how many nights I stayed up all night. I remember music history tests, I would just not read the book and stay up all night, read the book and take the test the next morning.
BK: And then after college, I was in GLAD for a number of years, this Christian band back then, late ’70s, early ’80s. But then as a pastor, I kept writing and arranging for GLAD and we had increasing number of kids, four or five kids, and I was doing arranging for them as a pastor, and the only time I could do it was at night, and I would say good night to the kids, talk to Julie for a while. And then like at 9, 10 o’clock start arranging. And yeah, you know, sometimes it would go to three or four, but it wouldn’t be uncommon for it to go all night, and I remember one year, we were looking at Christmas lights and I asked Julie to drive because I couldn’t stay awake. I had been arranging, and so I had a couple… Pulled a couple of all-nighters and we were driving around looking at lights, and I was just realizing I was falling asleep as I’m driving. And so, yeah, I’ve known a little bit of, yeah, feeling like you have a lot to do and not having enough time to get it done.
BK: And our conversation began, I think you asked me this morning, how am I doing?
BK: And I shared that when I woke up, I became, I was immediately aware… And this doesn’t happen all the time, but for some reason, I was aware of all the things I haven’t done. I’m not doing. All the things that I’m not sure about. All the things that are unanswered, all the things that I’ve yet to do, and I remember… Well, this morning, I just responded to it much differently than I would have in the past. And I said that I needed to get my soul to a place of peace, because I think, to say someone’s burnout, they’re experiencing burnout, that’s just a symptom. Or to say that we’re busy, those are just symptoms. I think too often we don’t differentiate between a symptom and the cause of that symptom, you know. It’s… Jesus said, I think in Mark 7, I’m gonna look it up here. Yeah, it just says it’s out of the heart that all these things come. Well, let’s look at Matthew 15.
BK: “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” Verse 19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander, these are what defile a person.” So I often think it’s my circumstances that are the reason I’m burned out, or the circumstances that make me so busy. And it may be that we’re doing way too much, but it could also be the way we’re thinking about what we’re doing.
BK: So what was different about this morning, than ways I’ve often approached feeling like, “Oh, there’s so much going on,” is I wanna be at a place of peace in the Lord, I wanna get my eyes on the Lord. And so a few years ago, I started memorizing Psalms, some of the Psalms, and that has been so helpful. Because in the morning, as I’m getting ready, taking a shower or whatever, I can just be rehearsing a Psalm and walking through it and just thinking, “Okay, these things are true.” So this morning, I went through Psalm 33, “Shout for joy in the Lord, oh you righteous. Praise befits the upright. Be glad in the Lord with make music… Be glad in the Lord with the lyre, make music… Make melody to Him on the harp with 10 strings, play skillfully on the strings with loud shouts. The word of the Lord is upright.”
BK: And so, I just started going through what this Psalm says about, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers them out of them all.” That’s Psalm 34 actually, which I was thinking about yesterday. But these verses that just remind me, this is what’s true about the Lord. This is who He is. So then I spent time with the Lord, again just reading through His word, and I try to take in a bit of the Psalm, a bit of the Word, a good portion of the word, so that whatever it is I think is so important I realized, “No, what God is speaking to me here is more important.”
BK: So then I got to a place where I thought, “You know what, the Lord’s got it in control. He’s not frantically thinking, ‘Oh, what’s gonna happen?’ Or He’s not saying, okay, Bob, this is your test. See if you can get all this done.” He is with me but he is working in me, He is working through me, and I can trust him. He is sovereign. He has not forgotten me. So all these things about the Lord, that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, when I’m feeling like I can’t get all this done or things I don’t know. Psalm 131, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child within me, like a weaned child’s my soul within me.” That’s what I wanna be. I wanna know, if I keep staying occupied with things I can’t control, things that are too wonderful, marvelous for me, too great marvelous for me, I’m gonna be anxious, I’m gonna be worried. So I think the first place to go is, “How am I responding to all this?” And I wanna go to the Lord to trust Him, to find my refuge in Him, those kind of things.
DZ: Yeah, and they’re such a temptation right when we wake up to think, “Okay, here’s the list. This is what I’m gonna get done today.” And I think even when you open the Psalms and you see the Psalms, the dependence on the Lord through the entire book of Psalms is just… Especially with David who’s being chased and who wants to be killed. [laughter]
BK: His problems are a little more significant than ours.
DZ: Than just our busy schedules.
DZ: But I think there is that… Yeah, there is that temptation constantly to think that, “Well, yeah, I have to get it done. It has to be done. And it all has to be done immediately at this time.”
BK: Yes. Yeah.
DZ: And I think it’s just a problem we face.
BK: Well, and one of the reasons I think we feel that… There are a lot of reasons we can feel that pressure. Certainly deadlines will make us feel the Sunday’s coming, I gotta get ready. It’s, whatever, Friday, hopefully not, and… Or Saturday night, hopefully not, and I’ve gotta get this right. Okay, you do. But you know what, you can trust that the Lord will give you what you need. What is gonna hinder Him doing that is you feeling like, “Oh, my gosh, I’ll look like a moron if I don’t get this planned.” So what creeps in to us, and I think what brings the anxiety a lot of times, is just, “What will I look like if I don’t succeed here, if I don’t get this done.”
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: For me, that’s a primary cause of anxiety. Just what will people think of me, what would they say about me, how I look to my friends and… Even after, next year, I’ll have been a Christian 50 years, I’ve been fighting this in for decades. I can still be prone to default to that and just think… Without even thinking about it. What will people think if… And that’s what the anxiety… That’s what produces the anxiety oftentimes. So if we can go after that, we’re a long way towards getting rid of that feeling of, “Oh my gosh, I’m overwhelmed. I gotta… ” No, God created the heavens from nothing. He spoke a word, it all came to be. He took a million some people through the Red Sea out of the Egyptian Army’s reach and then they all drowned. He did that. This is the God that we worship. Do we not think that He can handle this song list that we’re putting together, or whatever issue it is in your life, do we not think that He can handle that? We just forget. We just… And one of the reasons we forget is because we’re more concerned with what people think than with what God thinks.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: And there’s a verse in John 5:44, it says, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees and he says, “How can you believe if you accept the praise that comes from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” So, craving the approval and the praise of people is a deterrent to faith in God. So the more I want people to love me and praise me and worship me and say, “Oh, they’re such a great whatever,” the harder it will be for me to believe God cares for me, God knows about me, God loves me, God is for me, God is working in me, God is working through me. I’ve seen a direct connection to that.
BK: So I think one of the questions we can ask when we’re feeling overwhelmed and feeling like, “I’m just burned out” is, why are you doing what you’re doing? Who are you doing it for? Jesus said, Matthew 11:28, “Come to me.” This is just so amazing. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” What a promise. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That… Those three verses are such… They offer such hope to anyone who is struggling with feeling, “I’m so busy, I’m so busy, or I am burned out. I can’t do this anymore.” Now, we’re just looking at one of the causes of burnout.
BK: There are other ones, but I think this is the primary one. And Jesus is saying, you know what, maybe you have your own yoke that you’re carrying, maybe you’re carrying the yoke of people’s praise, that’s not gonna give you grace.
BK: That’s not gonna help you. You’re gonna feel burned out. Take my yoke upon you. Why? What is your yoke like, Jesus? Well, I’m gentle and lowly in heart, I’m humble, I don’t do anything my father doesn’t tell me to do, which gets to another reason, maybe we won’t move there yet, but another reason is that we’re not doing stuff the Father has told us to do.
BK: You’re a busy guy, you do stuff.
DZ: Yeah. [laughter] You do stuff.
BK: You do a lot of stuff.
DZ: Well, yeah, I think…
BK: What are some of the motivations that you have that you realize, oh, that’s wrong?
DZ: Yeah. So often… So often, I feel like there’s the temptation to equate, well, I’m busy, so I’m successful. I’m working so hard and I’m holding all these things together that this I’m successful in this position, whatever it is, and it… Take yourself out of a ministry context in terms of worship leading, it’s… Maybe it’s your job. I’m successful in my job.
BK: Or a mom.
DZ: Or a mom, or…
BK: You’re a successful mom.
DZ: Yeah, and I think that pride can creep in and say, you got this. You’re not… You don’t need anybody’s help or anyone else’s. You’re not dependent on anyone.
BK: It feels bad to feel dependent.
DZ: Yeah, it’s weak.
BK: Yeah. [chuckle]
DZ: Yeah, yeah. And we don’t want to…
BK: I know that feeling.
DZ: We don’t want to be weak, we want to be strong and successful.
BK: Unless we thought of it. Like I’ll be weak. See how weak I am? Brothers, sisters, see how weak… What a weak person… That’s fine.
BK: But when someone else kinda says, You know what, you need help.
BK: That doesn’t feel as good.
DZ: Yeah. [chuckle]
BK: And I think it’s because we wanna look great in our weakness even.
DZ: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it’s even a redefining of… Who said that’s successful? How is that successful? Is that really success?
BK: Doing a lot of things is successful.
BK: And maybe you’re doing the wrong things.
BK: I’ve talked to people who’ve come to the church, who… Different churches I’ve been a part of and said, “Yeah, I burned out at my last church.” And I hope that we’re not doing that to people, because we wanna make room for an individual’s personal life, excuse me, and when someone’s serving on the music team, I wanna be very conscious of the seasons of life and not make the band like this kind of commitment, if you’re committed to the Lord and if you’re committed to the Church, you will be here for rehearsals.
BK: I don’t think that’s legitimate. I don’t think that’s even biblical.
BK: You certainly can make those kind of standards, have those kind of standards in your church, but I’m not sure where you find that in the Bible.
DZ: Right. And it feels like you’re putting a burden too heavy for people to really carry. They’re working jobs, they’re parents.
BK: That’s right. That’s right.
DZ: And it’s not void of responsibility and being faithful…
BK: Right, right.
DZ: ‘Cause we’re called to be faithful in our context, but it’s… Again, as a leader of music, what’s the priority? Is the priority that the band is tight and perfect and arranged on a Sunday morning? Or is it that we’re serving one another? We’re serving each other as a band and we’re serving our congregation.
BK: Yeah, I think you can answer that biblically and say…
BK: I mean, there’s nowhere in scripture where, especially in the New Testament, where you get the impression or it’s spelt out that what people really need on Sunday mornings is a extremely rehearsed finely tuned tight band with incredible vocals with tracks behind them where it sounds amazing. There’s nowhere in the Bible where you get that impression.
BK: What we need is the work of the Spirit. We need to see the glory of Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18, “Now, beholding the glory of the Lord,” we’re all being transformed into this… With unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord.” That’s what we’re beholding, the glory of the Lord and being transformed into that image from when to give glory to the next. Where’s the glory? Is the glory in our production and is the glory in our productivity, to the point of what we’re talking about?
BK: Is the glory in how much we’re doing. No, it’s not.
BK: It is in the glory of Christ, it’s in the truth of His word. As the Spirit opens our eyes to see what Jesus has done, who He is and what He’s done, and see the preciousness of His Word. I just… I’ve been working with Psalm 19 and just wanting to memorize it. I haven’t memorized the whole thing, but it’s been… It’s just so sweet to remember that the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. All these things that we want to happen. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. So if you feel dumb, the testament of the Lord will make you wise. “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” You want joy? Well, think about the Word of the Lord. “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” You wanna get wisdom? Commandment of the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.”
BK: You want something that will really last? It’s the Word of the Lord. “The rules of the Lord are true and righteous all together. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey, than the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned. And in keeping them, there is great reward.” There is so much we are promised from the Word of God, and we think when people gather on a Sunday morning that what they need is our finely tuned arrangements and great vocals and cool licks. I’m sorry, they don’t need that. Is it enjoyable? Sure. Is it fun to listen to? Yeah. Can it be emotionally stirring? Yes. Does it show them the glory of Christ? Maybe, maybe not? So we’ve moved off a little bit from that productivity there, but the way it relates to that is people can live with so much pressure to produce, produce, produce, and try to put on a happy face ’cause they’re doing it.
BK: And you go, “Is that what the Lord has called you to?” I don’t know if I’ve shared this on the podcast or not, but I remember receiving an email from a guy years ago. He’s saying, “My wife is… Found out she has cancer, and she’s struggling, and with chemo and these different treatments. And I have… I do the arrangements for our band each week, and I’m feeling this tension, this pressure between, should I care for my wife or should I do these arrangements?” And I emailed him right away and said, “Stop doing the arrangements. Care for your wife. If you can’t do both of those, and if there’s a tension and there’s a pull, brother, there is… It’s not a question.” That’s an easy answer. This is a no-brainer, because God doesn’t say to do arrangements for your Sunday meeting, he does say to care for your wife.
DZ: Right, for sure.
BK: That’s an easy one. Now, if you can do both, great. It’s not an either/or, but in this case, it seemed to be. So are you doing… Related to burnout and busyness, are you doing the things that the Lord has told you to do?
DZ: Yes, absolutely. And what is motivating your reasons of wanting to do more, and do so much? Yeah, what’s the motivation? And you’re talking about the heart there. So in this conversation of burnout, I guess I would imagine that there would be people listening to this that feel pressure from their full-time salaries in their church. I’m predominantly now talking about leaders of music in their church, okay, or it’s a full-time salary, or it’s a pastor’s expectations of them.
BK: Another pastor’s expectations.
DZ: Yes. Maybe the lead pastor’s expectations of, you’re the worship guy, you’re paid full-time, and… So how would you encourage… What would you say to those leaders that are feeling either the weight of their full-time salary, “I’m getting paid to do this, I have to do more, it has to equal up,” or a pastor’s expectations of, “So, what are you doing?”
BK: You’re just playing the songs… Right, that takes a couple hours.
BK: What do you do the rest of your time?
DZ: Yeah, yeah. So, how would you encourage those leaders?
BK: Okay, so that’s two categories, and the first one is a full-time leader who feels like they should…
DZ: It’s his job…
BK: Yeah, it’s his job.
DZ: It’s his full-time job, so I have to fill my… I have to pack my time to make my job make sense.
BK: Well, we always wanna start with, how does God view this, how does He view what I’m doing? And I would say, there’s a case to be made in the New Testament for pastors, those who care for the flock to be paid. Paul makes a strong argument for it in a number of places, and… So that’s legitimate. But that doesn’t change what God’s desires are for you as a member of that church. So if you’re there being paid as part of your church and you’re thinking, “I gotta make this worth it, I gotta do stuff, I gotta make up stuff to make it worth me getting a salary for this.” That’s the wrong way to think about this. You should be thinking, “How would I serve the church whether I was paid or not? How would I wanna serve the church whether I was paid or not? How do I shepherd the flock? How do I care for them? How do I lead them to Christ?” And then all the things you’re paid to do just become a means of doing that, and I think a lot of times we just add all this other stuff…
DZ: For sure.
BK: That makes us feel busy, makes us feel important.
BK: And you know what, maybe you shouldn’t even be… [chuckle] I’m sure people appreciate me saying this, maybe you shouldn’t even be paid full-time. Maybe it’s not a full-time job. Maybe you were hired to do something 40 hours a week, 45 hours a week, whatever, and you’re realizing, “Yeah, this is really only a 25-hour a week job. But I got a family, I got… ” I can’t speak to that situation broadly. But it’s worth asking the question. “Am I just doing busy work or am I serving God’s purposes for His church?” ‘Cause I think in a lot of churches, there are individuals who are doing busy work. They’re doing a lot of stuff, it’s… For making… It’s taking time to do it, and it’s not necessarily what’s serving the church.
DZ: Yeah, yeah, and I think it can lead to burnout because…
BK: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.
DZ: Because you’re spending so many plates out of a pressure, almost a fear of man, of what…
BK: I gotta earn my keep.
DZ: Your pastors think or what your elders think. Yeah, and so I think that’s a great analysis of, how do I think it through myself?
BK: Yeah, if it’s just your full-time job and you wanna be worthy of it, well, you need bigger reasons than a paycheck to determine what you’re gonna do.
DZ: Yeah, well said.
BK: They’ve gotta be motivated by God’s word, and of course, that’s… Your pastor should be helping you with that. So to the pastor’s point, or the point you were making… Or the question you were asking about the pastor, again, first place I’d go… We should go is to our hearts, because it may be that your pastor is asking you to do legitimate things, and the reason you’re having such a hard time doing it is because you want his praise more than you want the praise of the Lord. And so you’re always feeling… Any question you’re asked is like a threat, and you feel like he’s always breathing down your neck, and he might be just trying to help you.
BK: So go to your heart first, ask, “What are my motives for doing what I’m doing? Am I really weighing what he’s saying, asked me to do in light of my responsibility to serve him and to make it a joy for him to lead me?” and all those things. We just too easily default to, “Well, the problem is my pastor.” So don’t go there, ask questions about your heart first. Having said that, there can be senior pastors who demand more of their full-time employees, or even part-time employees, than they should. And I think that just requires an honest conversation, where you’re saying… You go humbly, you go joyfully, you go with the attitude of, “I really wanna serve here, I wanna make you a success, I wanna make this church a success. I can’t accomplish everything you’re asking me to do given the time I’m supposed to be working. So, what would you have me give up?”
BK: So make your senior pastor… Give them the opportunity to say, “Well, this is the priority.” People have asked me that and I so appreciate it, just, “I can’t do these two things, what’s the most important thing?” That will at least engage you in a conversation. It may be he would say, “Oh, that’s not important.” But weigh everything you’re doing and just say, “What’s legitimate? What should I really be doing?” And if it comes to the place where the pastor says… It may be his vision for what you’re doing is totally different from what you’re doing. So I’ve talked to guys who say, “I want a simpler, more… ” They would say, “Biblical model for how we think about singing on Sundays,” where the pastor’s saying, “I want a big production, I want big… All these things.” That just may not be the church you should be at. And that’s through a number of conversations where you lookin’ at your heart.
BK: But it may be that you realize, “Wow, this is just not where I should be.” And that’s okay. You wanna be where the Lord wants you, and you certainly don’t wanna be undermining your pastor and fighting against him all the time. But at the end, when we get to the end of our lives, I love this, that the Lord says… We’re gonna hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Now, that’s all gonna be by grace, it’s gonna be based on the finished work of Christ, His perfect life, His substitutionary death, His victorious resurrection. That’s why we’re gonna be faithful. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He’s not gonna say, “Well done, good and productive servant,” that’s not gonna be the word. “You produced a lot.” No, because of the parable of the talents. They produced different… They had different fruit.
DZ: That’s good.
BK: But they were all faithful. And I think as we’re seeking to be faithful, by the Lord’s grace, by His mercy, we’re gonna be able to address burnout and busyness in a way that I think honors the Lord and serves those around us.
DZ: Yes. Oh man, thank you.
BK: Well, thank you.
DZ: Yeah, thank you for this conversation. And I love that it’s just an extension of what we have been talking about. Hey, what are the things that we’re processing that we’ve experienced in ministry, and I’m sure other people are experiencing in ministry?
BK: Yes. Oh, without a doubt.
DZ: And to encourage pastors that feel burnt out or on the edge of burnt out or feel like they’re carrying such a weight, that passage is such an encouragement to our souls that the Lord promises rest.
BK: Amen, amen. He says…
DZ: Promises rest.
BK: “Come to me, come to me. Don’t run from me, come to me.” So, yeah, those are rich words.
DZ: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Bob.
BK: You’re welcome.
DZ: And thank you for listening.