Leaders Losing Soul…

Jose and I are in Duluth, GA right now attending the annual Catalyst Conference. This is our third year and I have to tell you that this is something we really look forward to. Janeil went with us last year and met us again this year so we could experience this all together. Andy and Erika Olsen will be joining us tomorrow as well.

The Catalyst Conference is meant for leaders. There’s over 10,000 leaders that attend each year. The guys that write all of those leadership books – they’re the ones speaking! It’s one of the most cutting-edge conferences with amazing praise and worship services by the Passion Band and Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Steven Fee, and Aaron Keyes.

Thursday and Friday everyone does sessions together. But today – everyone got to pick which speakers they wanted to hear. There were SO many things I heard today – things that brought me to tears, things that brought affirmation to what we are doing, and things that we really need to work on! Tonight I want to share about one of the sessions I went to.

I am not sure if I am writing this for you or for me…..I just felt the need to talk about it. 

I saw the title – LEADERS LOSING SOUL. It sounded interesting to me. Something that happens so often whether you’re a missionary or in any other spiritual leadership role is BURN OUT. So I thought this might address that a little bit and really wanted to hear what the “solution” was.

Most of the sessions had plenty of seats available. We got to the session about 20 minutes before it started and was amazed to see that it was standing room only. This was the first time in 3 years that I saw a session so packed out. 

The lady who spoke was married to a Pastor – lived the life of a Pastor’s wife for 12 years. She is actually a consultant to many big churches and businesses – she does a lot of counseling. Her husband was just released from prison in July. 

Let me give you some statistics about Pastors:

1500 leave the church EACH MONTH

50% of their marriages end in divorce

84% feel they are not good enough

70% constantly fight depression

So the name of the session is Leaders Losing Soul. So what is soul? What type of soul are we talking about? We are not talking about soul as our “eternal” essence BUT soul meaning – the quality of experiencing life here……feeling alive. Our soul lies midway between understanding and the unconscious.

What she experienced herself and what she is finding as she goes to counsel leaders is that most of us are Zombies for Christ. We think that the care of our soul is to “fix something”. We believe if we don’t have soul contentment then the answer is to become better. So we tell ourselves – we aren’t good enough for this church/mission. We tell ourselves “if only” we would bring more people in. If we were better speakers then we would have more people coming to our events. If only the offering was higher – then I know I am doing a good job. If only our score card ranked higher. We tell ourselves I’m just not enough.

We begin to have this huge hole in our lives. We can’t talk about that hole though. I mean we’re Christians. Christianity is about “doing good” not about Grace. I mean we preach/teach about Grace but we don’t receive that. What if I – JODY – as a leader said….I really struggle feeling that God loves me. I really struggle feeling like I’m good enough for Him. If I declared what part of my “dark hole” was or what real sins and burdens I carry…..I might lose my job. We as leaders aren’t really allowed to have “dark holes”. So what do we as leaders do about having this hole that we can’t fill or share…..WE HIDE! We put on the smile, we go through the motions, but we aren’t actually present in our own lives.

OH MY GOODNESS….. that’s me. I often feel that I’m not actually present in my own life. I struggled with that most of last year and even some of this year. So all of these leaders who can’t share their souls – they hide and they become depressed and they never find anything to fill the “hole”. 

I’m listening to our speaker, tears streaming down my cheeks and yet as I look around the room – I see tears flowing down the cheeks of all these leaders from all over the country! 

I’m probably taking a risk at sharing all of this with you but you need to know that your pastors, missionaries, and other spiritual leaders are struggling to live up to the image that we’re supposed to have and by not being able to be honest about what is really happening in our life – we are actually not present in our own life. We decided not to “feel” anymore and we grew numb. 

I look at the room of people I’m surrounded by and I never once would think they belonged in this room. I wasn’t even sure if I belonged in this room and yet here we all are – hundreds of us – with tears flowing. 

So now what do we do? I am hanging on the edge of my seat wanting to know how we fix this “losing of our soul” and the first thing she tells us is to learn how to be present in tribulations. We’re not exempt from tribulations but just learn to be present – to feel the emotions – the highs and lows. Allow ourselves to really feel that – to grieve even. We have to learn the mystery of the pain of who we are and not be afraid to figure out why we have this dark hole. Don’t pray for life to be easier or happier but pray for it to be full of intensity and authenticity. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for more intensity or even thanked God for it – but we should because it reminds us that we are alive.

How many of us as Christians love our neighbor but we don’t really like them? You know what I mean! Well God couldn’t love us if he didn’t already like us! She asked all of us in the room – Do you really know if God loves you? The answer is not YES – the answer is simply the honesty of where you really are…..it’s how we know where to start. 

She begins to tell the story of her husband and his 12 years in prison. He was a pastor that fell into the hole and began to use drugs. Again – not wanting to “feel” or be “present” in his life. He told her that when he was in prison he was apart of a real worship team, small groups, and prayer circles. He said to be honest – Jail is more real and honest than any church he’s ever been to and he was actually afraid to be released. He said he couldn’t go back to the “image” but has to have the “reality”. 

Sometimes in our job of “living up to the image” we forget the reality. God created the soul to experience pleasure. We are supposed to be PRESENT in our own life so we can experience that pleasure. Maybe we have to find someone we can trust – and talk about it. If we talk about it – we don’t have to carry it around. We cry out to our God……and yet will we trust Him? Maybe that’s where some of us have to start.

We ended the session with 5 minutes of reflection/quiet/prayer time. I found myself on my knees and as I opened my eyes – it was one of the most beautiful and yet overwhelming sight….. to see all of  our leaders – the ones with the perfect “image” on their knees, broken, and crying out to their Heavenly Father.

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