I “enjoyed” my first experience with altitude sickness on my first visit to Colorado. Being a native Mississippian, I had never been exposed to the altitudes of the Rocky Mountains outside of Denver. Within a few hours of arrival, I had a headache and felt like I was going to pass out with a few other symptoms that will go unmentioned. “You’ve got altitude sickness,” one of my traveling companions said. “Let’s wait till your body adjusts before we hit the ski-slopes.”
I quickly learned the cause of this common occurrence experienced by many visitors to the mountains is that the oxygen levels at higher altitudes are lower, meaning my breathing system was not obtaining enough oxygen to fuel the energy needed by my body. In just a little while, my body would make the adjustment, but for now, I had to wait until my lungs could catch up.
This same thing happens to ministry leaders way too often.
We operate in the expanding enterprise of the Kingdom of God and we are climbers by nature. Everything we are doing aspires to become more and to grow bigger. What starts out as a manageable pace in ministry, escalates to an intense level, demanding more and more energy to sustain the work. If we are not careful, we can run out of the very thing that keeps us alive and enables us to serve with impact. When our source is depleted, we are vulnerable to mistakes that can lead to catastrophic consequences. And, just like altitude sickness, the faster we climb, the more susceptible we will be to this effect.
As we approach the heights of serving the Lord in ministry, consider these ways to avoid ministry altitude sickness:
We need time with Jesus and His word. He is our oxygen.
Reading when it isn’t in preparation for something – listening when we are just listening and not evaluating. Relaxing when we can use the energy to enjoy Jesus through our family and friends. No matter what height we may reach, if we are not with him, we will suffer.
We need people with us in the work who can spot the signs of depletion.
These are more than co-laborers. They are trusted confidants who can tell us the truth and love us anyway. They can help us be aware that we need to refresh before we hurt ourselves and others.
We need the spiritual food of obedience.
One of the fastest ways to get over altitude sickness is to eat something. Remember what Jesus said – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish the work.” When we take steps of obedience – acting on what He has told us to do, it feeds our Spirit.
Time with Him. Trusted friends on the journey. Simple steps of faithful obedience.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.