Sunday morning, Pete Wilson of Cross Point Church in Nashville announced he was stepping down as Senior Pastor.
He said, “Leaders who lead on empty don’t lead well. For some time, I’ve been leading on empty.”
“We’ve said that this is a church where it’s okay to not be okay, and I’m not okay. I’m tired. And I’m broken and I just need some rest,” shared Wilson.
Pete was the founding pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Brandi, started the church in 2003, and has since grown to reach upwards of 7,500 people at five locations each week.
This disheartening news comes only months after the loss of Perry Noble of NewSpring Church. These situations are not rare, and tragically, are not the last are their kind.
How should we respond to these situations?
Though shocking and disheartening, we should first be incredibly thankful that Pastor Wilson had the humility to recognize he could not effectively lead the people God had called him to lead in the position he was in.
Second, as church members, we have a responsibility to provide environments for our pastors to get good rest.
Pastors play an instrumental role in the Kingdom but as believers, we must remember that the Church was not built on Pastor Wilson. It is build on Jesus Christ.
But before we can begin to understand why or how this happened, we must grasp the Creation narrative. Everything goes back to Creation.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2, ESV)
God did not need to rest. Yet, throughout all of scripture, we see the Sabbath being modeled for us, for our benefit.
Practicing a Sabbath is a celebration of our humanity.
In Exodus 20:8 we read,
“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” (ESV)
As New Covenant believers, there exists a strong temptation to minimize the legal commands given to us in the law, claiming that because we are under the New Covenant, we are not bound to obey the commands given to us in the Old Testament.
While we are not obligated to obey the Sabbath command in the same ceremonial manner as believers used to, that does not mean we are not still called to a Sabbath.
In the same way God did not need to rest on the seventh day, he did not create the Sabbath command for himself. He again calls us to rest because we do need it, whether we like to admit that we do or not.
The need for rest was programmed into us from beginning of time itself.
By resting, as we have been called, we are living in the beautiful life rhythms God created. This rhythm of work and rest was designed by God to both invite us to partner with him in his work but to also trust and rest in his goodness that he holds the whole world in his hands and does not need us to bring about his Kingdom.
We see in Hebrews 4:9-11,
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
The purpose of the Sabbath is about showing our fidelity to Christ, and finding our rest in Jesus, rather than in our accomplishments, even if those are good things.
Even if we don’t recognize it now, we want Pastor Wilson to have failed and fallen from an affair, alcohol abuse, or gambling addiction. Not burnout. We don’t want to come to terms with the reality that as broken and sinful people we, too, can easily fall due to burnout, either self inflicted or unavoidable.
Needing rest is not something that should not be looked down upon. It should been seen an opportunity for us to demonstrate our immense dependence on our Creator.
The Sabbath was created and given to Pastor Wilson, and it was created and given to you and me as well. We should be thankful for a God who intimately knows our every need, and in his perfect plan, supplies them.
I’m a young seminarian; I haven’t been through the rigors of different ministry seasons yet, but I pray that I’ll develop good rhythms of rest and work. I’m working on that now, even in the position I’m in.
Let’s continue to pray for and encourage our leaders, like Pastor Wilson, who have been given an incredible calling and responsibility to shepherd the Church. While leading in any capacity is a blessing, it is not easy. Be thankful for leaders who recognize when they are at capacity and humbly submit themselves to the will of Christ by recognizing their need for rest, and ultimately for the gospel.