I have a problem. I’m sure many leaders have a similar one. It’s really hard to manage the tension of this problem because as a Christian leader I am constantly balancing ‘working’ for God and growing His church. It’s also not fun to admit I have a problem. However, change is usually one or two confessions away from some sort of positive action taking place. For change sake, here’s my problem: As a leader, I carry significant burdens with me everywhere I go. I carry the burden of God’s church. I carry the burden of my staff and their livelihood. I carry the burden of my family. I carry the spiritual welfare burden of the people in my church. And the list goes on and on. You might be thinking, where’s your faith pastor? It’s not your job to carry any burdens … Yeah, I know. Kind of. But, the reality is, we are co-laborers with Jesus and it is both natural and necessary for us to share some weight of the people and organizations we lead. How much of that weight and what to do with it is where the problem becomes the problem. 

Paul for instance — ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-28‬ ‬‬“Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.”

Notice he says, besides all this other stuff (BIG LOL), “I have the daily burden of my concern for the churches.” Well, is it wrong he’s concerned? No! But it did get me thinking, is there a difference in the kind of burden I should be carrying? I think the answer is, YES! Below, I’ve highlighted the difference in which burdens we should carry and which burdens we shouldn’t. For clarity, I’m working through this and often fail to practice what I’m detailing. That said, I am trying harder than ever to live Matthew 11:28!

Questions to ask yourself: 

Is this a — Fear burden or Faith burden? Fear burdens are not from God and we need to Matthew 11:28 them. Faith burdens are when we carry our call and forge ahead, using our faith burden to motivate us.
  • Examples: Elijah (“I’m the only one, I wanna die”) FEAR [vs.] Nehemiah (“I must rebuild the wall”) FAITH
I believe that carrying fear burdens will hijack the best decisions you’ll ever make and carrying faith burdens will motivate us to live the most adventurous (and fulfilling) life possible. 

Is this a — Worry burden or Worship burden? Worry burdens are very similar to fear, but also slightly different. Fear makes you believe that danger is imminent, whereas worry causes awful anxiousness and produces impossibilities from your mouth. Fear often freezes us, but worry often creates a culture of lack with the people you lead. It’s why turning your worry burden into a Worship burden is the antidote. When we worship, we are opening up are mouths and speech to the supernatural. Carrying a worship burden is a mandate to speak faith over fear, extraordinary over anxiety. We need to carry this mandate.
  • Examples: The disciples (in the storm while Jesus slept soundly) WORRY [vs.] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (facing death but declaring miracles and peace) WORSHIP
I’ve heard it said, “you cannot worry and worship at the same time.” So, we should determine to carry a worship burden and make continual and constant miraculous declarations of possibilities, especially when we sense our anxiousness rising. 

Is this a — Pain burden or Pressure burden? Pain is something that only God can take from us and heal for us. Whereas Pressure can be something that God allows over us and uses for our growth. Both are valuable and fruitful, but pressure is what we should recognize and be proactive in leveraging it for our continued progress as leaders. Most times, when we are in pain, we don’t have much control or options to alleviate it, other than to simply release the burden as opposed to carrying it.
  • Examples: Paul (carrying a thorn in his flesh) PAIN [vs.] Joseph (faithfulness in jail) PRESSURE
Pain will break your spirit if you don’t release it from your control, but pressure will build your faith as we embrace them as opportunities. Paul wasn’t wrong for having pain, he was right for surrendering control. For many of us, we forget how to release this pain and then we carry it as if our carrying it can change it. On the other end, Joseph embraced the very unfair season of pressures in his life and it produced significant opportunities and elevation for him. He moved from a prisoner to the second in command of the palace, in large part because he leveraged the season of pressure he was under.

Is this a Vision burden or Victory burden? Both of these burdens are necessary, different, and come with their own sets of challenges (and complications). We are called to carry both, with boundaries, accountability, and a team.
  • Examples: Jonah (clear vision and call to the people of Ninevah). He was reluctant to go and it resulted in problems for him, like getting stuck inside a fish for three days. However, this is an example of a VISION or purpose God has given you (sometimes these visions are things we don’t want or like). The burden usually won’t go until you go. A VICTORY or (harvest) burden is when you have experienced the fruit of your labor and now have to steward it. An example of this is when the Apostles determined they could no longer manage or maintain the feeding programs. They had to hand it off so they could focus on teaching and casting more vision.
It’s very possible that we could have embraced the God-vision but squandered the God-victory, resulting in loss rather than sustainable gain. Don’t think because you have a vision, you automatically have a victory, you’ve got to carry them both and recognize the season you’re in. 

A small “victory” burden illustration that we’ve been pondering as an organization is what to do in our “growth” seasons. For instance, every year in January-April, we experience an overflow of people. It is exciting and fun, until May or until it is too full for guests to comfortably find seating. This past Easter, we had to stop our 10:30am service and ask any volunteers to get up and leave the service. While that makes for a fun crowd to preach to, it does not always make for a guest wanting to come back. The point is, for several years we were too slow to act. We should have added services sooner, rented more chairs, or gotten creative to sustain the growth. Not to mention, we didn’t always have the systems or structure in place to sufficiently serve, disciple, and manage the growth. We were experiencing a harvest, but not appropriating the burden. Thankfully, we got smarter as we got older and created structure, took several steps of faith by adding staff and services, launched a location, and are about to launch another location in the fall. This is what I mean by carrying the burden of vision and victory together, the trick is not believing it is us who made the vision or us who gives the victory. We are simply learning how to navigate carrying the right burdens, at the right time, the right way while stewarding anything we’re given as if it were our own.