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Reduce stress, stay focused Graham tells LeaderCare crowd

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“Wherever you go you will top all the rest … except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t,” Jack Graham read from Dr. Seuss’ book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” during the Wounded Ministers LeaderCare luncheon June 11 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans.

Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, stressed the importance of exercising preventive care and maintaining one’s passion in order to avoid and emerge from the slumps so many ministers and church leaders experience.

“Passion is something that you can’t define, but you know it when you see it, you know it when you have it, and you definitely know it when you don’t have it,” Graham said. “Jeremiah had it. He went looking for a desert hotel, but discovered that he couldn’t stop talking about God. … The disciples going to Emmaus had lost it, but after they walked with Jesus their hearts burned. Passion comes with our first love for Jesus Christ. When we lose it, we find ourselves slumping.”

LeaderCare, a ministry for ministers and their families conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, merged in 1999 with the former Wounded Heroes ministry. LeaderCare seeks to support ministers and their families by showing them that “the greatest resource one brings to the ministry is a healthy self.” The Wounded Ministers luncheon, attended by more than 1,000 persons, seeks to create an awareness of the program as well as to encourage people to promote it in their churches and communities.

Graham’s message, “Renewed Confidence for Ministry,” focused on the need to be “unslumped” by understanding and appreciating the need for passion.

“Passion fuels our spiritual vision,” Graham said. “We are living in an incredible time to minister. But it is a challenge to determine what our passion is and then, by the grace of God, do what that passion is. Passion energizes our life’s mission. It helps us to be like the cross-eyed discus thrower. … We may not set any records, but we sure can keep the crowd alert.”

Graham also described passion as transferable, something that is “caught, not taught.”

“Fire in us catches in the hearts and lives of others … but you can’t start a fire in somebody else until the fire is in your own heart,” Graham said.

Graham then recounted the Old Testament story of Moses and the burning bush. Moses, he said, was a “nowhere man” who had lost everything and was living a solitary life with only his family and his flocks.

“He was a burned-out prophet, and when he saw the burning bush, he must have thought, ‘If I can just have that fire in my heart again.’ And God wanted to get out of that bush and back into that believer.”

Finally, Graham spoke on the vulnerability of passion. Passion can diminish and easily “F.A.D.E.,” Graham said. First, there’s “Fatigue,” then “Anxiety,” followed by “Disappointment” and “Entanglements.”

But fatigue is the father of it all, Graham said, citing a study on “post-adrenaline depression.”

“Post-adrenaline depression is the feeling following the exercise of heavy demand. For pastors, it usually comes on Mondays,” Graham said. “Unless pastors slow down and rejuvenate, they’re going to come apart. Stress can thrill, but it can also kill. Stress causes you to burn up. Depression causes you to burn out. I want to burn on.”

In order to prevent the dangerous physical effects of stress, Graham recommended that pastors and their families get regular physicals, remain physically active, rest, and set limits on ministry demands that denies any of these preventative measures. Graham cited LifeWay’s president, James T. Draper Jr., in this fight against burnout. Draper has publicly set an example by striving to cut down on stress and get into better physical shape.

“We don’t have to solve every problem or dry every tear. We need to live, not just longer, but to live better,” Graham said.

In closing, Graham quoted from his own version of Dr. Seuss. In part, he told the crowd, “Remember your call, stand straight and tall. Take a breath, for we win after all.”

LeaderCare officials reported that a network of more than 1,000 counselors is available through state conventions to assists ministers and their families. LeaderCare also has five conferences planned for this year. LeaderCare’s toll-free crisis number for ministers and their families is 1-888-789-1911. All calls are strictly confidential. More information on LeaderCare and Wounded Ministers can be requested from [email protected] or by calling (615) 251-5618.

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  • Brandy Campbell