“Culture beats scheme every time.” – Chip Kelly
The Chip Kelly fad was short-lived while he was in the NFL, but that little token of wisdom has outlasted his coaching career. In this quote, Chip is referring to the truth that in order to make lasting change we can’t just implement new strategies or schemes, but we have to change the overall culture.
As of February 2021, 42% of millennials said they were burnt out, giving credence to their nickname of “The Burnout Generation.” According to a 2020 Deloitte survey, 44% say they’re stressed all or most of the time. This means that almost half of people aged 27-42 are currently overstressed or burnt out.
This is the culture we live in. This is the culture Gen Z follows behind.
But is this the kind of culture God has in mind for us?
An ever-increasing question we must ask ourselves as Christians is “How do we not lose our souls while living in a culture that is?”
Life Hacks Won’t Fix It
Often our first approach to fixing burnout is to come up with better schemes. This is why “life hacks” are so popular, with current videos on the topic boasting more than 50 million views. People are constantly looking for that silver bullet to help them alleviate stress and live a more peaceful, fulfilling, non-anxious life.
But while life hacks can be helpful (cue the “I was today years old” tag on Twitter), most of the time they reflect our propensity toward immediate gratification instead of delayed gratification. Let’s be honest. Becoming the person Jesus calls us to be takes some patience. Rarely does the kind of change He desires happen overnight.
So, Chip Kelly says if we want to change this current trajectory of burnout, we need more than schemes and “life hacks.”
We need a culture change.
5 Pillars of A Burnout Culture
We all know that burnout is not something that just hits Type-A workaholics in the secular workplace. This disease runs much deeper into the fabric of our society. In fact, most of our churches are filled not only with people who are burnt out, but pastors and leaders who have or are on the cusp of burnout. I don’t need to put any data here because the stats have been repeated enough, and knowing more stats won’t help us. You know yourself and you know if you are experiencing symptoms of burnout.
What I’ve tried to do is to define what led me to my own burnout. Why did I experience this at a relatively young age while doing something that I loved?
While most of my definitions use ministry as an example, I believe they can be applied to any sector of our lives. Here are the five pillars of burnout culture.
#1. DOING VS BEING
Burnout culture tells us that being productive is of the highest value. It declares that our identity is wrapped around what we do. As Tim Keller likes to say, “Our culture tells you that your identity must be achieved rather than received.” The problem is most of us have no idea we are doing this. We believe the lie that influence comes from a certain title, position, more views, more likes, and ultimately comes out of our performance. We are a performance-driven culture.
However, there is a fundamental difference between our identity being centered around what we do (doing) and who we are (being). What I had to learn is that my leadership capacity and reach comes from the person Jesus is making me to be, and not from the things I accomplish.
#2. SHALLOW VS DEEP
Burnout culture invites us to live quick, fast, and shallow. Do something to make a splash. Do anything to build your brand. Instead of the deep, and usually long, work of sanctification, we short cut it by living shallow lives. We believe the lie that our influence externally is a reflection of our depth internally.
But that is usually never the case.Instead of the deep, and usually long, work of sanctification, we short cut it by living shallow lives. We believe the lie that our influence externally is a reflection of our depth internally. But that is usually never the case. Click To Tweet
Remember Jesus’ words about the two men who built their houses? One built his house on the shallow sand. Shallow, quick, and easy. Storms came and it was demolished. This is exactly what living a shallow life will do to you. Storms will come and your soul will be crushed. The other man had to dig and build his house on the solid rock. Took more time I imagine, but he built his life on something deeper—something better and stronger.Spiritual maturity is never easy, quick, or fast. But it’s worth the work it takes to go deep—especially when the storms come. In ministry, your character will be tested more than your competency ever will. Click To Tweet
Spiritual maturity is never easy, quick, or fast. But it’s worth the work it takes to go deep—especially when the storms come. In ministry, your character will be tested more than your competency ever will.
#3. PLATFORM VS ALTARS
Burnout culture tempts us to build a platform for our egos instead of an altar of worship unto God. Think about that. We use God to build a platform for ourselves, instead of using our lives as an altar of worship for Him. Before we excuse ourselves from this one, it doesn’t matter how “big” the platform is. We can have 5 followers on social media and still be all about building our platforms instead of altars of worship.We use God to build a platform for ourselves, instead of using our lives as an altar of worship for Him. Click To Tweet
Mark Sayers once said that the marketing advice given to companies on branding in the 90’s is now taught in colleges but is applied to individuals. Basically, the marketing scheme to build large companies is now being used and employed to build you. You have to brand yourself now. You must compete with everyone else. Make yourself something. Be unique. Standout. This grind will inevitably lead to burnout.
Jesus calls us to deny ourselves instead of serving ourselves. Build altars of worship, not platforms for egos.Jesus calls us to deny ourselves instead of serving ourselves. Build altars of worship, not platforms for egos. Click To Tweet
#4. POTENTIAL VS LIMITATION
How many times have you heard this phrase, “He just didn’t live up to his potential!” or “She has so much potential!”? Potential isn’t bad. But burnout culture would have you believe that you are limitless, invincible, and should be able to accomplish anything you put your mind to. I do believe that as humans created in the image of God, we are capable of some incredible things.
However, there is a temptation to always believe we are missing out because we believe we are somehow not living up to our “potential.” I heard one pastor say that instead of looking for our calling in our “potential” we should find our calling within our “limitations.”
One thing that preceded my burnout was that I did not believe I needed any limitations. I didn’t like having limitations. If God was with me, why couldn’t I do everything I wanted to?!? One of the greatest gifts God can give you is an awareness of your limitations. Once I accepted my limitations, I could be honest about what I could or could not do. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe that the Spirit of God can empower us to do amazing things for Jesus, but instead of constantly living in light of F.O.M.O., I can see God’s call right within my limitations; limitations that are usually outside of my control.
What would that look like for you? Where are you looking to your potential instead of your limitations?
#5. STRESS VS REST
I’ve written extensively on my blog about this. Burnout culture invites us to live lives of chronic stress. Jesus calls us to live our lives out of a place of rest in Him. Not inactivity, but a life marked by a deep trust in His performance instead of ours.
A Different Culture
So back to our initial question. How do we not lose our souls while living in a culture that is?
We have to be honest about where we are in light of these five pillars of burnout. We have to change the culture we live in. And the only way to change a culture is to live in light of another one.
One pastor said we can do this:
“I am finding more and more that the Christian life is less about intensity and more about consistency.
It’s the small steps, during the small moments, in the daily life.
Doing the right things, the right way, for the right reasons. And then doing them again.”
Let’s live according to the culture of heaven and consistently walk toward Christ and spiritual health together.