The Messiah Trap!
I first encountered The Messiah Trap while I was working in Denver. I found it tucked away in the back of a folder of information that we would need to keep with us all summer while we interned around the city. A Map of the different districts, contact information etc and this diagram with huge lettering at the top naming it “The Messiah Trap” at 10:31 we call these Burn-Out Cycles, but for the next few weeks we are going to be referring to The Messiah Trap as we look at what is actually going on in our minds as we go through these cycles of Burn-Out.
A Demand for Purity: What is The Messiah Trap?
Have you ever met someone who is really busy? You know, the ones who cannot slow down to save their lives (literally). Who will tell you they need a break and then not take one unless they are forced. This is common in the corporate world, this is even expected in some corporations. In some ways it is also expected in the Church today as we ask people to get involved in more and more ministries to make our church bigger and better. But what is The Messiah Trap? What causes it? Is it a strict demand for purity imposed on us by others? It may be, or is it our own need for self-worth and affirmation through activity that allows us to prove ourselves to others? I think it may be a little bit of both.
Take for example a leader within 10:31 Life Ministries who is responsible for spiritual care (No such position exists, this responsibility falls on the director’s positions). If then we say “You must always be available to someone on the writing team” then we are creating a demand that they cannot meet. Yet, if we say “We want you to be available from 8am to 5pm and after 5pm you can go at your own discretion then we are not creating a demand that cannot be met. Some people work from 8-5 helping people with breaks and are fine. But if we demand that you leave your phone on all night and say “If you need something call this person” then we are putting too high a demand on their time.
How? A busy week comes up and the person cannot get away from their phone, they are constantly driven to be there for people by people and they cannot get any time to themselves. In that case we would be forcing them into a burn-out cycle, they will burn out, some more quickly then others.
Now, if a person comes to us and fills that position from 8-5 and then over involves themselves throughout the week and gets burned out because they are making themselves available to the point of exhaustion, for example they feel they cannot say “No.” This could come from a desire to feel worth through activity. They might say something like “If I am always available then I have worth.” At 10:31 this would be a breakdown in our education where we teach “No” as an appropriate response to ministry and personal requests. As well as worth coming directly from the father and not from our activities here on Earth.
But this sense of worth from acting worthy is only the beginning, the person has begun a burn-out cycle. The next steps as follows: A person will begin letting others determine their actions, then feels a need to overachieve at their position(s). Then starts to experience difficulty meeting their own demands (or the demands of others). So they begin seeking to help others with a similar pain, which leads to feelings of isolation and finally endless activity to escape the pain. Two things will happen at the end of a burn-out cycle. 1. The person will begin to recover (probably a forced recovery) or 2. They will experience a premature death.
This is The Messiah Trap, we take on so much in the name of helping others that we forget to take care of ourselves. But here is the thing, we were never meant to do this. In Philippians 2:4 Paul says “Each of you should not look only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Notice he does not say “Each of you should only look to the interests of others.” Paul wants us to be taking care of ourselves too.
My mentors have always told me that I will not be an effective minister of the gospel unless I am healthy. That means slowing down, ending burn-out cycles all-together and surrendering all my burdens to Jesus Christ. As Christians we are told “Not to worry about anything” But to instead “In prayer, petition and thanksgiving make requests known to God” (Ph. 4:6). As leaders we cannot bear everyone else’s burdens. We cannot please everyone, we cannot help everyone, we cannot protect everyone. We must learn to manage our time and spiritual resources effectively and we cannot do that when we are burned out.
So here we go, to finish out the 10:31 year I’ll be focusing on this Messiah Trap and we will see where God takes it. I hope to teach you to manage your time and resources in a way that will make you the most effective in your ministry and sometimes, the only way to do that is to start by slowing down.
We are called to be leaders, so let us stand up and take the lead!
Source: When Helping You, Hurts Me, Escaping the Messiah Trap By Carmen Renee Berry
Source: Freedom from The Tyrrany of the Urgent By Alfred E. Hummel