Serving God is daunting. God’s call on a minister’s life honors him in such a way he tries hard, maybe harder than required to do all he can to please God and those God entrusts to his care. The breadth of God’s call and God’s commission to the Church and especially its leaders is all encompassing and easily becomes all consuming. Sorting out the incredible enormity of God’s charge in his clergy life is only part of the prioritizing problems every pastor faces. Other factors are also at work disfiguring the life works of clergy by the destructive affliction of work addiction.
Pastors may misunderstand God’s requirements for ministry and become work obsessed. Heroic sounding tales of men like praying Hyde who went to an early grave because he was so obsessive he destroyed his health with religious work addiction are a set up for pastors to think it is heroic to destroy their health, mental health and relationships with ministry related activities. God does not require pastors to destroy themselves but to serve selflessly. If you misunderstand God’s desire for you to build a wholesome life which enjoys Him and those he has given to you in your family and your church you will easily be duped into believing the harder you work the more Godly you are.
Since ministers are also human it is a short step from serving God selflessly to serving selfish ambition. Wayward motives are often mixed in ministry hearts. The genuine desire to serve the Lord in significant ways and in powerful roles dwells in the same human soul which enjoys the ego boosts such ministry offers. The opposing motives compete and no minister escapes the temptation to glory in his own doing. When congregations place pastors on pedestals and praise them for what they do and even what God does, pastors are tempted to take the credit for God’s handiwork and other’s efforts. This leads them to become increasingly motivated to do more and more and more and get more and more and more praise. Every minister battles this reality. The praise of men added to mixed motives creates driven successful pastors who are work addicted and destroying the relationships which matter most.
Additionally, family of origin issues, trauma and various fears infect clergy hearts and motivate them to work more than they should, more than God wants. The fear of failure often drives the frenzied activities of well intentioned pastors. Codependent serving which was learned as a child can drive a pastor to an early grave trying to meet all the needs he sees because he is compelled to do so. John Bradshaw popularized the idea our families of origin taught us how to be human doings instead of human beings. For pastors it is essential to know there is a great gulf fixed between working for God and enjoying the life and relationships God has given him.
The negative impact of work addicted pastors is most acutely apparent in health issues and family relationships.
High blood pressure, heart problems, ignored fitness regimens, stress related intestinal disorders and a host of other health issues step into many pulpits each Sunday. Pastor please know your dysfunction may drive you to compromise your health but your Father does not.
When sensitive members of a congregation see these health issues surfacing in their pastor’s life they long to do something for him. When they notice a pastor’s weary eyes, scattered demeanor or frustrated wife they experience these things as red flags and long for the pastor to get the help he needs to care for himself. Too often theses powerful and wonderful sensitivities are not heeded or are too short sighted. Weekends off are good but they do not address family of origin issues which endlessly fuel work addictions. A pastor’s retreat will not deal with his fear of failure or faulty concepts about what God wants in his life. The issues which drive work addiction are deeper. Sure retreats are used of the Lord and every church should regularly give their pastors weekends off and time away with their families but driven work addicted pastors must face their dysfunction at the psycho-spiritual levels of their personal lives.
Work addiction is like an adulteress mistress diverting the pastor from family life. The obsessive preoccupation of work drains intimacy, life and freedom from the pastor leaving him bound up inside and distant from and dead toward those who are his main priority. When we do not provide for our own we are worse than those who purposefully dishonor the Lord. The Neglected wives and children who mar the landscape of the Church like black spots on a bride’s gown need more than weekends of and retreats which are encouraging. They need serious support and help.
If you are clergy spouse or pastor and you recognize your driven nature or your husband’s driven work style do something before it is too late. Begin the journey of recovery from work addiction. Stop supporting this abuse of life and ministry. Take the first step and go to the Finding Help page on this web site and seek some guidance for your valuable life or the life of your loved one.
You may not recognize your self as being work addicted and you are constantly telling your self and others something like, “when I get through this building project, funding campaign, missionary conference or etc. I will get some rest or deal with the stress.” Please go to Chapman House Inc., by clicking here and take only moments to take the work inventory at the bottom of the page. Three or more checks indicate work is more primary than it should be in your life. If you discover it is please seek confidential help at the Finding Help page of this web site. You and your family deserve to have you present when you are home and have you home enough to enjoy. For more insight, encouragement and hope read “Working for God” on this web site. Click here to read it. Remember, Mary choose more wisely than Martha. You can do the same.