I was the pastor of a pentecostal contemporary church of around 700 people spread across four campuses. I had a paid staff of around 12, and volunteer pastors working for me as well. We were an exciting, vibrant church with a creative bent and a flair for communication. I sat on the state executive for our movement and all up I worked on full-time paid staff from January 2000.

The reason for my departure was burnout, more specifically an anxiety form of depression bordering on suicidal. My marriage was like world war III. I tolerated my three kids in small doses. All I wanted to do was to get away. By January 2009 I couldn’t go on.

This is the story of my recovery and passion to explore what went wrong. I need to understand what happened to me, to give it some meaning. And I want my experience to count for something. Maybe, what I have learned can be useful for someone else. Maybe even, people like me have something to say about the way we do Christianity and leadership and church. If not, then at least I’ll have a journal to record my progress, so on bad days, I can look back and see how far I’ve come.

28 Responses

  1. This makes a lot of sense.

  2. Hi. I just found your blog today – I think it was in WordPress’ “freshly pressed” category.

    Interesting to read your bio. I came from a similar background (though not a pastor), and have since left the organized church. Although I have not left God – not at all. It would be interesting to share life experiences at some point.



    • Hey Doug, I’d love to hear your story. I’m a kind of lightening rod for stories similar to mine. They really help form my ideas about where we went wrong with the institutional church! I’d love your ideas on how we can fix it….

      • Well, let’s see: two kids, and a majorly dysfunctional marriage as well. Without getting into detail: I tried for too many years to be a psycholgist to her. She needed a professional and I wasn’t qualified. That, plus the need to be the positive example at church where I was on the leadership team, plus the worship team….well it just ended up pulling me too far in both directions.

        After going through a time of suicidal thoughts – including a one-time repressed desire to turn my car into the path of a tree – I finally realized something was seriously wrong, so sought professional help.

        I also stepped away from the church long enough to realize the social trap for what it was. Although I’m entirely satisifed that I made the right decision and have no desire to go back, I don’t know if I can adequately articulate it all.

        Seems to me that much of what goes on within the modern church dynamic is a lot of what Jesus preached against. As did God in the book of Job for that matter. This need to explain everything (as if it can be explained) for example. Or the human desire to judge, dressed up in robes of “thus saith the Lord” terminology. It’s natural to want to judge, but it comes something horrific when it’s presented as a word from on high…..

        But it’s not really the small pots of hypocrisy that got to me. Everyone is hypocritical at some point or another.

        It’s the smiling expectations; the insular and circular arguments. The dogma, the “my way or the highway” aspect to it all. For a lot of Christians, this dynamic represents a kind of safety. I get that and appreciate it.

        But at the end of the day, it seems to me that many use the church culture to define them; instead of making a bad situation good, it becomes a sort of living martyrdom: “I’ll suffer now so that I can have joy in paradise”. This completely negates what Jesus said when He said that he came to bring abundant life to the world. LIfe is for living. Not tolerating.

        In the end, even though the church culture said it was wrong for me to divorce – wrapped in the verse that says, outright “God hates divorce”, I was mercifully offered the wisdom “well, when does divorce happen, in God’s eyes? Does it happen only when the judge raps the gavel? Or before?”

        I concluded that the hell we were living in was already evidence of a clearly dead marriage. So… a split, plus a lot of medical help allowed me to start a new beginning.

        Even though this comment is long, the story is actually much MUCH longer. *grin*

        Anyway, very pleased to meet you. I think – but am not sure – that this comment will likely show up in your email with my email address. Please feel feel to write at any time. (Might be a better venue for this discussion anyway). I’d really like to know more of your story.

      • Hey WS, it’s so great to hear from you! Thanks for telling me a small part of your story. What a hard road you’ve traveled. Sorry to hear about your loss of health and marriage. I too didn’t get help until becoming suicidal. I guess that’s part of my reason for speaking out and now working in the mental health sector. I’m a bit of an evangelist for early intervention now.

        It’s in experiencing my breakdown and hearing stories like yours that I’ve realised we can no longer be dogmatic about our rules, regulations, interpretations, teachings, boundaries, ideology…. I’ve tossed it all out the window and am starting with a whole new approach. I guess I still think theology is useful, as long as it doesn’t produce legalism…

        Are you still involved in church? How is your recovery?

      • I’m nine years out of the marriage and am still a bit gun-shy. 🙂 Still, it’s been a much calmer time for quite a while so I’m doing well. Just got diagnosed as having ADHD (believe me – knowing a lot sooner would have helped).

        I’ve taken the notion of living (instead of tolerating) life to heart: I’ve travelled, and have gone skydiving, and have taken up improv comedy and of course writing. As I deal with the ADHD factor, I’m really hoping to make some major strides in some of these areas, especially writing. Whether commercially successful or not, the success for me will be in the accomplishing more than anything else.

        I greatly admire your decision to toss everything out the window and start over. And not just because I did the same (and really, kind of had to). I vividly recall those looks of disgust and pity on the faces of those who saw us go through the separation and divorce. It didn’t anger me so much as make me chuckle just a bit.

        I truly believe that good mental health involves looking at everything; becoming self-aware, and re-examining habits – both of deed and thought – to ascertain their validity. That self-awareness is not easily done either. Most people think they’re self-aware, and unfortunately I think most just aren’t. Else we wouldn’t repeat the same patterns, would we?

        At the same time, I’m wary of ever saying “hey, I’ve arrived”. ‘Cause I really haven’t. Maybe the joy is in the journey…..

  3. I too stumbled upon your blog today. I am in fact a new pastor/church planter. We need to talk. LOL!!!

    • hey letitminister, I’d love your comments/ideas/questions! You have a great opportunity being a church planter to do something different…..

    • Hey pastor D, if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask, they’ll certainly give me ideas to write on. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Good for you, reaching out to explore your experience this way. You sound like a very thoughtful man. Best of luck to you!

  5. Found your blog today . . . my husband is a pastor . . . I have a lot say about why we do what we do as christians . . . I keep it to myself most of the time. I have you bookmarked, I think my husband and I could both use your wisdom. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • I’d love your thoughts too liv. There aren’t too many people who are “thinkers” who have a safe space to share their thoughts about where Christianity and the church is heading. It’s easy to understand the problem, but not so easy to find the answers. There are plenty of people who’ve left the institutional church, but not nearly as many trying to find a new way…..

      • My thoughts are usually somewhere on my blog, check it out any tiime ;). My husband and I are determined to find our way, as tempting as it is to give up the institution. The more we can learn from those who have been there, the better off we are/will be.

  6. Wow, very interesting bio and great blog. I’m glad it was ‘freshly pressed’ so I was able to discover it. Good luck with the recovery!

  7. I am definitely adding you to my blogroll. I am glad that you got freshly pressed and I am very interested in what you have to say especially as a christian myself.

  8. This is bold to share your story. Thank you.

  9. I was doing some work on the blog and needed to check out a WP theme and came across your site. Wow. You are a great and honest writer from the heart. You’ve been through your struggles and I think you have a lot to give to people. Your header is arresting and great graphics, and I know there is a lot of pain and struggle behind it all.

    I hope you can help a lot of people with your blog.


  10. I’m 23 and I think I had ‘burned out’ too. All this time, I was looking for a word or phrase that would explain to others how I felt… “Burned Out”.

    Thank You.

    • Hey rantings… if you’re feeling burned out, there’s a great checklist here that would be worth looking at. If you think you’re unwell it would be good to see a doctor. Early intervention and treatment is such a key. The longer you leave it, the longer the recovery and some research suggests permanent damage can take place. I really hope you feel better soon….

  11. Great blog! I think a lot of people burn out who are involved in Church. I think also it’s good to have others who understand what you’ve gone through and are going through. 🙂

  12. Hi, nice to meet you !

  13. I rarely *ever* post a link to any of my blogs anywhere, so you need to know I’m a little reluctant to do this. But, given the subject matter of so many of your blogs, and our similar experiences, I thought you might want to pop over for a quick visit. This particular blog touches on many of the things we’ve discussed, in the context of this past weekend’s preoccupation with the Rapture. There are a great many people for whom this wasn’t an ironic subject; who truly believed, or wanted to believe, that it would happen. Many of whom are now very disappointed. Anyway, that’s what this is about. You can find the blog here: http://bit.ly/iCgcXo


    • Hey Wolfshades, I love your story too (not the painful bits) but the way you tell it, and the way the story continues to unfold and you unpack it and go on the adventure of life. I’ve linked your blog here too.

  14. hey nice to meet you!!! similar tales.

    • naked pastor! I like that and love the tag! Graffiti artist on the walls of religion. Thanks for stopping by. I’m looking forward to lurking on your blog 🙂

  15. A friend sent me your blog. How often does the organized church injure the sheep? So many stories. My family made a house church but realize WE ARE THE CHURCH. Thanks for the great blog.

  16. Have you come across James Jordan and his journey into sonship after his big burnout?

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