I was just talking to a good friend about the history of our church, and some of the reasons people have left our ministry over the years. There have been interpersonal conflicts, natural transitions (like marriage or geographic relocations), as well as I think what one blogger describes as “missional fatigue” (I can’t remember whose site pointed me to his post…).

It raises questions for me about how we, and communities like ours, are doing as a church when our environment ceases to be sustainable for people and they find themselves in a position of “just needing a break”.


  1. Erika, you raise an important question. I know that culturally we can swim in the tide of progress and busyness and that can often lead to these situations. It is a tension that needs to be worked out. How do we respond to God’s invitation to be the hope of the world and yet not embrace a messiah complex that often leads to ecclesial maladies?

    My take is that we ask what the Lord is saying through these situations with an honesty and self scrutiny that is unafraid of being wrong, at times. Unfortunately, that is a hard pill to swallow…

    great question, I look forward to hearing other’s thoughts on it.

  2. You bring up a very good point for my consideration. My wife and I are transitioning now from a traditional mega-church to a smaller, more missional, church-planting church. My fatigue and burnout came while serving in a volunteer position at that church (teaching, meeting, planning, a lot of praying) while working full time.

    This is a very timely “heads-up” for us to consider as we desire to step away from the schedule-cramming structure of church-life into the 24/7 missional life.

    Lord help!

  3. Can I ever identify with these questions. For us we have had to be intentional in embracing “missional community”. In our contexts that exist in such critical states with such immediate needs, it is easy to focus on the ministry to the point of exhaustion. Community reminds us that the quality of our ministry is directly correlated to the quality of our relationship with God and with others. Not an easy dynamic tension to navigate.


  4. A couple of little people who probably can’t do #2 on their own along with a challenging pregnancy (is there any other kind?)in addition to a big dose of inner city ministry in LA would probably make most people look for the exits :^).

    But sounds like you meant your comments less personally and more broadly.

    I’m good to go with John and Jamie’s takes.

    Some other potential factors:

    **Phariseeism can often be the disease of the truly committed. Sometimes the level of self-righteousness in cutting edge Christian communities gets hard to swallow over time. Good folks who leave traditional low commitment/low vision institutional settings to join ‘alternative communities’ can end up leaving both settings because the alternative to an impersonal lack of commitment can sometimes be a narrow and parochial overconfidence that doesn’t get the job done in serving others in a practical way.

    **Sometimes godly folks leave godly alternative and high commitment communities because those communities just aren’t very practical in serving others. Alternative, high commitment communities can sometimes be long on vision but short on practical, relevant service, particularly among the least. Evangelical communities can be hostile to serious ‘secular’ learning in areas like anthropology or economics and are thus often ignorant of what it can take to make a practical difference.

    Sometimes we can be so concerned about theological and ideological correctness that we end up ruling out proven and practical approaches to blessing others practically. “Be warmed and be filled” communities and mission organizations eventually get old for folks more serious about justice and service.

    **Nobody wants to lose life. The whole Christian faith community faces that choice every day, but some folks deal with a more intense and in-your-face version of that deal. No matter how loving and rigorously faithful and aware an alternative community may be, some folks sadly will eventually bag it even if they’ve seen the ‘real deal’ up close. Maybe especially because they’ve seen the real deal up close.

    **Sometimes godly folks leave godly alternative communities because their leg of the ‘relay race’ is finished. Front line missions work in difficult situations is exhausting. God calls some people to a lifetime in those situations, but most serve in order to hand off the work to others.

    Sometimes alternative communities don’t recognize that reality, so they end up pushing people to stay around too long and/or don’t emphasize mentoring and raising up other leaders who can take on the next leg of the very long race. That can sometimes result in folks who not only leave a specific community but end up leaving any alternative community as a result of being burned.

  5. It would be nice if we had built in times of getting away, say on retreats or what-not.

    We do need to come apart at times and rest awhile, as our Lord did with his disciples (or tried to do).

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