How would you encourage a burned-out pastor?
1) I would listen to him first.
I'd ask, "What has it been like? How did you get to this point?" That's a past question. And I would ask, "What's it like now? What are you feeling? What does 'burned-out' mean for you? Is it, 'I'm not sure I believe anymore'? Is it, 'I have no energy to get out of bed tomorrow '? Is it, 'I'm so discouraged. My people are not being changed at all'? What's the nature of it?"
So I would ask questions and listen. That would be my first approach.
2) And then, based on what I heard there, I would probably counsel him to step back and get some perspective. Ask your church for a leave: a week, a month, three months. And if they love you and value what you do, they might give it to you.
Be honest with them. Don't try to pull the wool over their eyes. Go to your leaders and say, "Here's my situation. Give me counsel." They may then ask you to get some counsel. They may send you to a renewal place. Or they may just give you time.
Make sure you discern the physical, emotional and spiritual components of this.
3) Then I would encourage him that great saints go through this. Elijah seemed to be like that. He seemed to be burned-out when he ran from Jezebel and said, "I've had it. I'm done. I'm not going to do this anymore."
And isn't it interesting that in James 5 we're encouraged to pray by looking at Elijah. James says that Elijah, who was a man of similar nature to us, prayed that it would not rain for three and a half years, and it did not rain for three and a half years. And the whole point of saying that is to say, "You remember Elijah don't you? He was discouraged. He was a man of emotions that were up and down." And James is saying to ordinary folks: "Elijah went through it. You're going to go through it. He prayed. You can pray."
So I would try to encourage him that a feeling of being burned-out happens to saints, so that he doesn't feel picked on.
4) And then I would try to take him to the preciousness of Christ and the preciousness of the ministry. I would try to help him dream a dream again, that he can come through this and God can give him a new lease.
I have had numerous pastors testify to me that discovering Christian hedonism has been revolutionary to their ministry. Christian hedonism says that the desire to enjoy the ministry and to enjoy God is a good desire. In fact, it is an essential desire, according to Hebrews 13 where a sad pastor is bad for his church and a happy pastor is good.
Now Christian hedonism can put a weight on you and make you feel guilty if you're sad, or it can release you to say, "You mean this is OK to want to enjoy what I'm doing?" And many pastors have found hope in Christian hedonism. And so I might take him there and try to show him some of those texts.
5) And I would pray with him.