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Pastor Chad Cocran

Generations Church, Louisiana

Serving in a leadership role in God’s Kingdom is no job for the faint of heart, but these past two years have been exceptionally tough for every church leader. From pandemics and lockdowns to unprecedented cultural and political turmoil, we are facing challenges in our churches today like we haven’t seen in a long time. And no matter how your church has fared during these trying times, I think it’s fair to say that this season has taken its toll on all of us.

In the fall of last year, I began to notice the symptoms of emotional burnout starting to surface in my life. I found myself becoming more irritable and less patient. I was losing the ability to engage emotionally and spiritually with people. And I realized that I was withdrawing from my family.

In November, a local pastor friend invited me to attend a meeting at his church which was focused on combating the high rate of burnout plaguing church leaders today. The meeting was led by a Christian therapist who specializes in helping pastors. During the meeting, we were asked to complete a form that measured the level of stress due to recent changes in our lives. The higher the score, the closer you were to burnout and depression. The therapist announced that if your score was over 300, you were likely already experiencing burnout and were headed for severe depression. My score was over 500! I left that meeting realizing that I needed to make some major changes in my life or I was headed for disaster.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had already started speaking to me about the concept of rest. I had begun developing a sermon series on the Sabbath, and as I dug deeper into God’s Word, I found that God had quite a lot to say about the ideas of time management and rest that was in direct contradiction to the concepts of time management commonly preached to us by our culture. Modern time management principles teach us to maximize productivity and efficiency. Every available second of every day is to be leveraged in accomplishing our goals!

But the practice of the Sabbath is directly opposed to these ideals. In fact, as I studied the rhythms of life created by God for His people in the Old Testament, I realized that God had intentionally built times of leisure and rest into their lives. One out of every 7 days, they were commanded to cease from all labors of any kind. And besides all the annual festivals where the people rested and celebrated for weeks at a time, every 7th year they were forbidden to work for the entire year! The Levitical priests, the church leaders of Israel’s day, rested for several months at a time in between one-month periods of work in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Business and church leaders today can only dream of such a leisurely work schedule!

As I reflected on the lifestyle that God had created for His people, I realized that God values the quality of life and relationships that are found in regular times of stillness and rest more than the productivity and efficiency of modern culture.

At the beginning of the new year, I made some major changes to my work schedule. No more mornings in the office. I would intentionally invest my mornings in building the habits and relationships that produce long-term success–exercise, prayer, and spending time with my family. I would take extended vacations where I would completely disconnect from ministry-related activities–even turning off my phone! And I would give myself permission to seek out leisure and rest wherever possible in my daily routines.

Slowly but surely, the stress has dissipated from my life and God has renewed my joy in serving His people. I feel that I have only just begun to taste the blessings that will come from this new pace of life. But the renewal of my heart that has occurred as I have embraced the ideals of stillness and rest has whetted my appetite for more!

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