SFL Flashback: Burning Out

This post was first featured on SFL in October of 2010 and seemed an appropriate flashback for Labor Day.

O Fire of Love, O Flame Divine, Make Thy abode in me; Burn in my heart, burn evermore, Till I burn out for Thee. —

Fundamentalists love those lines by Eugene M. Harrison. After all, it’s better to burn out than rust out, amen?

The Christian soldier is never off duty for it was when David left the battle field that he fell into sin! Keep on the Firing Line! Any vacation that is not disguised as a short-terms missions trip is for liberals and apostates.

Work for the night is coming. Get up early and stay late. Give of your best to your fundamentalists masters. Put your heart and soul and strength into the work without a care for your health or sanity. (It’s not like you’ll have the insurance to cover either of those things anyway.)

Hurry up with painting the church, mowing the 37 acres of grass, cleaning all the bathrooms, and scrubbing the fellowship hall with a toothbrush — because you don’t want to be late for choir practice, visitation, and chaperoning that youth group all-nighter.

There is nothing more glorious than falling in the line of duty by dropping dead of a stress-induced heart attack at 43.

97 thoughts on “SFL Flashback: Burning Out”

  1. Been there, done that. Went on a sabbatical from AWANA and never came back. (Church dropped AWANA anyway for Kids 4 Truth.)

    Might be the reason why I’m nearly as gray today as my mom!

      1. “Ooh Ooh Ooh. I know that one!”

        Go to the Youtube web page of the video you want and highlight the URL “address” of the video. Then hit Ctrl-C to copy the URL. Then come back here to SFL and in the comment box hit Ctrl-V to paste the Youtube video’s address into the comment box. That’ll be interpreted by the comment system as “embedding” the video.

        1. You also have to have the URL on a line of it’s own at the very end of your post. Just the syntax of how Darrell’s blog comments feature processes text.

        1. I had the feeling that the preacher’s irritation started with the noisy child. Then the cell phone…and he could only grab one of them and throw it to the floor.

        2. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (and if you keep those infernal cell phones off during church!!!!)

    1. Love Hazel Dickens. She wrote and sang a song entitled “Don’t Put Her Down, You Helped Put Her There”, definitely at odds with the fundy attitude toward women but more in keeping with how Jesus responded to the woman “taken in adultery”.

  2. I was a new Christian by only two years thereabouts when I stepped in the Fundy Land trap. I am very thankful I got my engineering degree in a heathen “worldly” college first however. All this Fundy lingo was so new and so strange, but who was I to question these spiritual giants?
    I ran in circles for several years looking for guidance and acceptance. I went to several Fundy churches in this period. Two MOG’s were Bob Jones grads, two MOG’s were Pillsbury grads, one MOG was a Maranatha grad and one other was PCC grad. Each one beat parishioners over the head with guilt trips on giving 10% off the gross, being in church every time the door was open, and slamming the poor dupes that disagreed with the MOG,
    Is there a common MOG cookie cutter these institutions used to stamp out MOGS?
    South end of a horse, control freaks, sin-cursing, money-grabbing. troweling on the guilt. Damn!!!!! I can’t believe I was so needy and naive.
    Free! Free at last!!! Thank God I’m free at last! Dr. Martin Luther King, thank you for that statement.
    I still have in-laws that are not only in the Fundy Trap, some are bait in the traps and are too proud to see it or acknowledge it. Life is too short to live like that.

    1. I often wonder if fundy pastors overwork congregations so they don’t have to do any work themselves.

      I know there were times when I was expected to work 60-70 hours a week without a day off while my sr pastor took a short trip or day off for himself. I counted once where I worked 47!days straight…

      Glad I’m not in the landy of fundy overworking anymore

      1. That is just the tip of the iceberg. To be fair though, I had one IFB pastor who had a real servant’s heart. He gave the message at my son’s funeral. He and his wife a few years later lost their lovely beautiful adolescent daughter to cancer. I love that man and still talk every year or so. He was an exception to the cookie cutter.
        My takeaway to all this is to understand that this world is a swamp to the naive both inside and outside of the church.

      2. It is not just pastors or ministers who place heavy burdens of expectation on their congragations. It can often work just as harshly the other way round. I grew up Methodist in Northern Ireland and there was a kind of “One Man Band” culture that dictated that the minister had to do EVERYthing – preaching, pastoring, visiting, attending EVERY committee meetings and prayer meeting – and to be good at everything he did. More than a few times I heard members of the congregation – usually more elderly ones – complaining that Reverend So-and-So wasnt at this Prayer meeting or that Committee meeting,…. probably he was trying to help someone in some way… And woe betide the Minister if anything went wrong in the Church – HE was often blamed. Certainly he was expected to sort it out. Also Methodist Ministers were not as well paid as some of the other Denominations. That culture was actually common in all the Denominations in Northern Ireland, even Baptists. More recently, the culture has changed and often more people in the conngregation are involved, but when I was growing up, burnout among ministers was common.

        1. Sure, some pastors are underpaid and seriously overworked.

          They do tend to have more ability to set guidelines than the average volunteer does. For example, if no one volunteers to teach Sunday School classes, he can decide to cancel Sunday School until there are enough workers. He is better situated to negotiate his duties.

        2. I don’t and won’t disagree with what you say here and my heart goes out to the minister in that situation. I agree that this can go both ways, however…..
          There is never an appropriate time for a man with feet of clay to lay upon another man (or woman) with feet of clay guilt trips. Change in a person’s heart never comes by any other way than through the faithful teaching of God’s Word and the conviction if The Holy Spirit. I’ve seen and experienced way too many guilt trips laid on me by self-righteous fundies to last me multiple lifetimes. I was rudely shut down by more than one arrogant Fundy preacher or preacher boy because I dared speak up against corruption. I was too young of a Christian to believe corruption and hypocrisy of the caliber I saw at Fundy-U even existed. For the record I believe the basic fundamentals of Scripture. I soundly reject the mean-spiritedness of the Fundies I was emotionally abused by. Something is terribly wrong when the wounded are bayoneted and it’s called God’s work.
          I was tortured and sexually molested multiple times when I was a boy. I wouldn’t wish my childhood on my worst enemy. I’m HYPER sensitive to any form of abuse. When I experienced terrible emotional abuse by the IFB I lost my faith for a long time. I will eventually wean myself off posting on this site and move on to better things. In the meantime it’s healing for me to see that I’m not alone in my disgust with those who think they call down fire from heaven on those who don’t part their hair right.

        3. Dear Former Funny Mentalist,
          Thank you so very much for being open & honest with us here at SFL. I, for one, hope you hang out with us for a long time. You bring a seasoned perspective (as I hope I do). And please know that I want only the best for you, including your emotional healing and happiness. Frankly, I hope the same for myself. May God’s richest blessings come to you.
          Kindest regards,

    2. Exactly the question I have asked – the fundy MOG’s seem to have the same catch phrases, same illustrations, same expectations, same interpretations … on and on – how?

  3. I think the philosophy of overworking volunteers is also to keep them under the MOG’s control.

    First, volunteers had to sign the long list of the pastor’s extra-biblical workers’ standards just for the privilege of volunteering. No movie theater attendance, rock music, Christian Rock (broadly interpreted), no alcohol or smoking, dresses/skirts only (ties/jackets for men), KJVO, always support the pastor no matter what, etc.

    Part of those standards was agreeing to “Three to Thrive”, which was to attend each and every church service, special meetings, and the LONG quarterly conferences. They also had to agree to participate in the weekly scheduled soul-winning times. So the pastor owned quite a bit of their schedule before the volunteering ever even started.

    Then they were required to do class phone calls, cards, and visits. And provide a worker’s report to document all that activity. Many volunteers used the mandatory soul-winning time to do visits.

    The more time volunteers were at church, the less time they had for their non-Fundy relatives and friends. They tend to get cut off from other relationships. The church hosts its own school, sports teams and clubs, so the church kids can further isolate from society. Also, the parents are kept busy at church with these activities, too. They always need more help from parents.

    Who has time to be anywhere but at church?

    And when one is too busy to even have time to think, they don’t question anything that is going on. Do, do , do, and keep doing. Don’t want to be like those don-nothings at the church down the road…

    And the pastor gets to brag about all the things happening at his church to visiting pastors and at conferences.

    Also, being so caught up in volunteer activity makes it even harder to extricate ones family from the church. They feel attached to the little part of the ministry that they have sacrificed so much for. Also, their family has to basically recreate their entire social structure elsewhere.

    I think there is a sinister motive behind the extreme busy-ness.

    1. Dear Used-To-Be-Fundy:


      Ladies and gentlemen — we have a winner!

      ‘I think the philosophy of overworking volunteers is also to keep them under the MOG’s control.’

      ‘…the pastor owned quite a bit of their schedule …’

      ‘They tend to get cut off from other relationships.’

      The absense of discretionary time for emotional recharge or relational practices effectively preclude the possibility of organized resistance, a fact which returns us to your opening statement. Well done, Used-to-be-Fundy.

      Christian Socialist

    2. Very well said, Used-to-Be-Fundy. I read your post and it brought me back to a Hyles clone church I attended in the mid 70s. Same crap.

      It’s all about having slave labor to keep the cult alive. Feed the beast.

    3. It’s cultist attitude they be breeding.
      And considering many IFBs glean a lot from the Christian Identity and their pastors have similar attitudes to all kinds of cult leaders, brain washing, cult dependancy and Stockholm Syndrome can and will develop.
      No wonder fundyism has such a strong grip on people.

      Colossians 2:8

  4. “Put some gas in your Ford, keep on truckin’ for the Lord…”

    Don’t know how many miles I put on my old Ford van, running back and forth to church for this activity and that activity and kids’ choir and adult choir and gym night and Bible study and youth group and Women’s Ministries workshops and ‘let’s paint the nursery’ and ‘let’s do a grounds cleanup’ and, and, and…

    I had small children at home, I was homeschooling, we were poor, and my van got 10mpg. It was a hardship. And we were still expected to give 10% on the gross plus special offerings plus gifts for pastor’s birthday/anniversary/Tuesday afternoon, whatever…

    I poured all that time and money in, and thought these people loved me, as I loved them. And when the marriage finally fell apart and I really needed the support, where were they? NOT ONE ever spoke to me again.

  5. Dear Liutgard:

    Through no fault of my own, my church has had to deal with IFBs and their beloved pastors over the years. And honestly — I have to say that never once has this happened but someone ended up cleaning up the mess they left behind.

    Christian Socialist

        1. Dear Bald Jones Grad,

          In my case I didn’t turn my back on the church. I did however get a LOT smarter and discerning. Now I did leave the IFB. There’s no denying that. I do believe the church is God’s way in this age of Grace, but just like anything else that is precious there a fakes and frauds. That’s where discernment came into focus for me. I am an avid student of body language looking for congruency. There’s not enough dexterity in my two huge thumbs to type what I’ve learned. I am thankful for the godly man that has been my pastor for 26 years now. The wonderful and scholarly teaching has been a true blessing. This man has my utmost respect. He’s going on 82.
          I seriously considered walking away from “church”, but being raised in a wicked godless environment I didn’t consider walking away as an option. I do though fully understand your position.
          As some dear folks on this site have wished me well and healing, so do I you.

          Former Funny Mentalist

        2. Dear FFM, Thank you for the compassionate words. I find that I’m in the process of coming back to a faith position, even though I am not ready to come back to church. If I do, I’ll try the Episc. church.

  6. This seems to be a very American characteristic, and not just a fundamentalist one. As a European, working in Holland, I get more than six weeks’ leave a year (the legal minimum across the EU is four weeks). Americans seem to think this is ‘lazy’ and somehow ‘bad’. But in reality these vacations make for a more productive (because less burnt out) working life, as well as a happier and more balanced family life. This strand of ‘always at work’ mentality that I see in American culture – which must have roots in fundamentalism / puritanism – is very damaging.

  7. When I first got saved, I was street preaching on Fri nights, door knocking on Sat mornings, two services on Sunday, Bible Institute Monday and Tuesday nights, and church on Thursday. This is in addition to my own personal devotional times, and Bible study. I am less busy these days ministry-wise, with 4 kids and a psuedo-farm. but I still preach a couple of times a week, teach a verse by verse Sunday school class. I still have my own devotional time, and my own Bible study. I write a blog, mostly on scriptural topics, and I’ve written a couple of books.

    My point in all that, is that I have never considered my Christian service something I was guilted into or hounded to do. My early days of perpetual business were some of the best times of my life, and for a young Christian with a troubled past, a good way to stay out of trouble. I didn’t consider it ‘slavery’ or ‘feeding the beast’ or any of the other concepts that have been thrown out on this post.

    1. I think you’re missing the point.

      When fundy preachers say you are less than if you are not at church a minimum of three times a week, plus singing in the choir, going soulwinning, cleaning the toilets, mowing the church lawn, and involving yourself so much with the so-called ministry that you cannot have a social life or even your own personal life (you know, like spending time with your family or enjoying hobbies), then there’s a problem in your religious organization. There is such a thing as balance. As far as being busy to stay out of trouble, well, you could volunteer at a homeless shelter, read for the blind, work at a soup kitchen/food bank, tutor at-risk kids, work out at the gym, spend time with the elderly neighbor who is lonely, etc. How in the world can a churchy person be a light to the world if he’s never rubbing shoulders with them? Not all busy work needs to be for the preacher to feel good about himself.

      There is life outside the four walls of the religious social club and churchy people need to be not just acquainted with it, but part of it. When the fecal material hits the rotating, bladed machine, churchy people are going to need the support of people and activities outside the compound. If you never involve yourself with outside people and the community you will find yourself without support when you need it most.

      1. Which is why over half of my ministry is outreach. Actually well over half at the moment.
        I think there is a thread here at SFL that runs through a lot of the comments and perspectives. Over and over again, people lament that they feel ( or felt) compelled or guilted or pressured to do this or do that, or go here or stay away from there. Over and over again they accuse the IFB folks of being manipulative control freaks, and although I am certain there are plenty of those out there, overall, it hasn’t been like that for me DESPITE being acquainted with and sometimes involved in some of the ministries and ministers that are lambasted.

        The demands of the minstry , at least for me, have never been even as demanding as say, Little League or Boy Scouts, or some other similar activity. To excel at anything requires a commitment, but my commitment to the cause of Christ has always been a source of joy and strength, not of worry and dread.

        1. Okay, so you claim you’re not being guilted/pressured into anything. Fine. That doesn’t take away from the fact that most of us have. I would have said that I wasn’t guilted/pressured into anything either, but I was. I just didn’t want to see that it was peer pressure and manipulation. I wanted the praise and acceptance of others in the hierarchy and the best way to get it was to do things. When I could no longer do things I was cast off.

          You might want to consider that outreach is sometimes more effective by other people watching how much you love and care about them in real life as opposed to the object of some official religious organization work. I’d rather be loved by a person than some organization trying to be good do-bees for their deity.

        2. Michael, I agree with you, there is nothing wrong in being busy in church/outreach work! But when it’s all for the glory of the church and pastor, and they make you feel guilty if you give anything less than 110%, therein lies the problem. It shouldn’t feel like forced labor you can’t get away from.

        3. Michael,

          When I was required to fill out a weekly volunteer form that listed all the doors knocked on, phone calls made, cards sent, etc. it stopped being for God and was set up to glorify a man. They actually announced the tallies of each dept. from the pulpit each week before Sunday evening services. If I were to stop filling out the paper, I would be approached about it (BTDT) because the dept. head did not want his numbers to be low.

          I think many volunteers started out with the intention of serving God, but their work was manipulated and their position used to control their lives outside of church to a very sick degree.

          I also agree with the poster who asked about spending adequate time with ones family. My crazy church volunteer schedule was much easier before we had kids. I could tell my kids were getting the short end of the stick. Odd how we chose to have a stay at home parent and avoid using daycare, only to have our kids in a church nursery for a ridiculous number of hours per week. That was a mistake, and nudged us further toward the exit door.

    2. Dear Michael,
      I am extremely hesitant to even broach this subject, and believe me when I say I do so with greatest respect.

      I’ve no idea how old your children are….but are you able to spend adequate time fathering your four children?

      1. I guess that depends on who you ask. My children are all under the age of 12.
        I am very involved with my children and one of the great blessings of my life has been that my children occassionally minister with me. Having said that, there are some things in the ministry I do shy away from in favor of the ‘mission field’ in my living room. I don’t go to a whole lot of revival meetings or camp meetings because, among other reasons, I have found it to be a poor use of my time.
        I have no doubt that there are people who have been bullied or guilted into various ministry activities to the detriment of themselves. I have no doubt that ministries can become vast man-exalting machineries that manipulate and play upon loyalties to acheive their result. My testimony is that the last 19 years have been the exact opposite experience, and that most of what SFL contributers experienced in church, I experienced out in the world. That leads me to conclude that the issue isnt fundamentalism, but rather humanity.

        1. People are the problem, indeed.

          Your wife and kids are the most important thing. They go above churchy stuff on the list of things to do. It won’t even be a bad thing if you skip Sunday night or Wednesday night to just hang with family and rest. A lot of church meetings — and in my opinion, church ‘ministries’ — are a waste of time. Family and community are more important.

        2. BTW, I think most of us expect life outside of church to be competitive and ugly. The so-called house of God is supposed to be a refuge but it’s just as cold and corrupt as any other place. That’s why it’s so disheartening and discouraging when people who claim to be morally and spiritually superior are just the same as the heathens next door, or maybe worse.

        3. “That leads me to conclude that the issue [isn’t] fundamentalism, but humanity.”


          May I respectfully say that I think you’re missing something here. Thomas Sowell, the economist, repeated a statement in one of his columns that seems to apply to this discussion. It goes something like this, “Blaming gravity as the cause of airplane crashes explains everything and nothing.” Human nature; pride, ambition, greed, etc. are constants– the problem, as I see it, are doctrinal errors within modern fundamentalism that make abuse, if not an absolute certainty, far more likely.

          Although there isn’t time to give a response that is as thorough as your posts deserve, I’d like to try to list what I think are at least a few of those problems:
          1.) “The Man of God Fetish” : creating an unbiblical clergy/laity distinction and exalting one man i.e. The Pastor far above the rest of the congregation is bad for the church, harmful to the cause of Christ, and also a potential snare for the preacher himself.

          2.) Tolerating “abusers” provided they are IFB– This can include things such as pastors with correct soteriology inviting those who preach quick prayerism into the church, and also pastors failing to speak out against the unrepented sins of fellow Independent Fundamental Baptist Preachers.

          3.) A form of church government whose secular counterpart is an absolute monarchy– it doesn’t matter how good the man– this is a bad form of government.

          4.) Lack of pastoral accountability
          Unfortunately, I’m out of time.

    1. When I first got religion, there was a young lady in the “school” that the church ran. She was a busy girl with the youth group and singing in the adult choir and going soulwinning. She once said to me that it was better to burn out than to rust out. I didn’t have an answer for that, but if someone said that to me now I’d say it doesn’t matter in a baseball game if you strike out looking or swinging, you’re still out; same thing in churchianity.

      I am burned out and I checked out of churchianity a long time ago. I have no desire to be a churchy person ever again.

        1. Like Dr Jeckyl, I’m rather proud of Mr Hyde (or do I have that analogy backwards?) that I’ve helped to create!

        2. Maybe you’re thinking of Dr. Frankenstein and his creature?
          Jekyll and Hyde were the same person.

        3. BG, yeah, I debated which one was more analogous, and took a guess. I think you are correct. I won’t profess to be familiar enough with either original story to have formed the metaphor, but I couldn’t resist posting.

      1. Dear RobM:

        Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist [above] is likely correct 😉 Thanks for the ‘last line of the post’ tip. That did it. Blessings!

        Christian Socialist

        PS: This guy’s voice is at least as good as what you’ll hear in your local fundy church next Lord’s Day. He would have gone far had he not become a communist in the Mc Carthy. This song recalls the life of union man and socialist, Joe Hill.


        1. Paul Robeson had one of the greatest minds of his generation.
          I think the main reason he became a Communist was that in his day, the Republican and Democratic Parties did not support racial equality, while the Communists advocated for it strenuously.

      1. Another Hazel Dickens classic with extended intro explaining her brother’s tragic death from Black Lung, and the devastation of mining companies abandoning workers they killed. I’m not sure she meant to make a case for socialized health insurance, but it’s as strong of a case as you can make from actual lived (and died) experience.


        1. Hazel Dickens is a wonderful singer and songwriter.

          By the way, there is now a federal program to fund treatment for miners with Black Lung.

  8. I have to say, one very good thing PCC taught me was how to sound sincere saying, “Yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am…” And then to go and do my own thing.
    I still use that occasionally when people won’t leave me alone.

  9. Our lives have been much less stressful since we realized that “three to thrive” in addition to all of other things you are expected to do, is a big steaming pile of a horse’s finest work. My husband works long, unpredictable hours and what little time he has off is spent with our family, not trying to impress the pastor and his minions. I quit giving a rip and a fart a long time ago about what other people think.

  10. My evangelical church basically feels the same way about this as fundamentalists do. Especially concerning the short-term missions trips. I was taking a 2-week vacation a couple years back, and someone actually had the nerve to tell me I should be going on a missions trip instead.

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