According to Dictionary.com the word “fuel” is a noun with three meanings:
- Combustible matter used to maintain fire, as coal, wood, oil or gas, in order to create heat or power.
- Something that gives nourishment; food.
- An energy source for engines, power plants, or reactors.
Like your physical health, your spiritual health depends on taking in the right fuel. At the same time, some activities burn your fuel and leave you feeling empty. The key is knowing the difference between fueling activities and burning activities and then making good choices from that point.
This is true for every follower of Jesus, but I’m specifically thinking of Pastors. Your heart needs energy to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
Spending time with God in the Word and prayer, gathering weekly for worship with the church family, practicing confession and repentance all put fuel in your tank. But certain conversations will either fuel your heart or burn that fuel off at a very high rate.
As a pastor for 33 years, I’ve learned that Gospel conversations with non-Christians fuel my heart, no matter how they respond. Perhaps it’s because every time you share, you are obeying the Master’s Great Commission and cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s mission on earth, which is to make much of Jesus. It’s a given – sharing the Good News with someone who is far from God will fuel your heart.
And almost nothing burns fuel like spending time talking with Christians, particularly long-time believers, who draw you into draining conversations. This could include talking with individuals as they question the necessity of getting the Gospel to the unreached peoples of the world, or listening to their critiques of sermons/preachers while they rationalize their hypocrisy of regularly skipping worship for the sake of some “hobby.” The list could go on.
As Pastors, we spend our days moving from one conversation to another. Some fuel you for ministry and some burn your fuel at an alarming rate. I know I need to follow Paul’s exhortation “to admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). At the same time, it’s important to know the difference between what fuels you and what burns your fuel. From there, you can make good choices by prioritizing your time and conversations in such a way that provides you with a healthy balance of fuel intake and fuel burning. A good rule of thumb for Pastors or others in full-time ministry to follow is to engage in at least two Gospel conversations for every one of the exacting Christian-to-Christian conversations.
As pastors, we must take great care to find this balance in order to walk in spiritual health as we shepherd our churches.