When Motivation Fades…
Point to a healthy church and more than likely, it’s led by healthy leaders. But even healthy leaders can have set-backs, which can lead to stress and anxiety.
If that leader’s not careful, burnout can be right around the corner. And that burnout can impact the entire congregation.
How can we prevent ministry burnout? How do we restore someone who has burnt out?
In Acts 12-15, we meet a man named John Mark. His story can give us some clues.
John Mark’s Story
In Acts 12, we meet a man named John Mark.
“…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.” (Acts 12:12b)
“And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.” (Acts 12:25)
All seems to be going well for this young disciple, until chapter 13, when John Mark checks out.
“Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem, but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia.” (Acts 13:13-14a)
Theologian Matthew Henry write this about John Mark’s swift departure from the ministry:
“Then John Mark quitted them, and returned to Jerusalem, without the consent of Paul and Barnabas; either he did not like the work, or he wanted to go and see his mother. It was his fault, and we shall hear of it again.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
Was John Mark Ministry’s First Burnout?
Fast-forward to Acts 15 and Barnabas wants to give John Mark a second chance. But Paul is not chancing it.
“And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’
Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.
Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” (Acts 15:36-41)
Matthew Henry gives the following explanation:
“Paul opposed it (Acts 15:38)…he did not think him worthy of the honour, nor fit for the service, who had departed from them, clandestinely as it should seem, without their knowledge, or wilfully, without their consent, from Pamphylia (Acts 13:13), and went not with them to the work…” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
So What Happened To John Mark?
Personally, I think John Mark’s motivation faded. A concept that Carey Nieuwhof adds in Conversation #4 of his book Lasting Impact, “Are Our Leaders Healthy…Really?”
Under the section, “How To Tell Is A Leader Is Burning Out“, Carey writes,
“One sign of burnout is that the passion that once fueled you is gone. This impacts your drive as you discover that the source of your motivation has vaporized. Alternatively, your motivation may not be entirely gone, but it might have shifted-from being focused on the mission to being focused on yourself.” (C. Nieuwhof, Lasting Impact, Pg. 59)
Though we’ll likely never know the underlying reason, we can deduce that somewhere along the missionary journey, John Mark’s motivation faded. He just wanted to go home to Jerusalem. The thrill was gone, his ride was over.
John Mark Restored
Thankfully, John Mark went on to become a great leader in the church, after the restorative second chance given him by Barnabas. But he continues to stand as an ministry example to us all.
No one’s immune.
John Mark was the first of millions after him, ministry workers and church leaders who have fallen by the way-side in the midst of their Gospel mission. It still happens today to seemingly healthy church leaders.
If you think you might be heading towards or on the brink of burnout, I struggling encourage you to grab Carey’s book, Lasting Impact. Flip immediately to Conversation (chapter) #4. It’ll give you an incredible assessment and insights to seek help.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
Have you ever experienced burnout? What caused it? How did you get back to health?