Ministry can attract workaholics because working non-stop in ministry can feel holy and attract applause. But being a workaholic in any role is never holy, and it always leaves one hollow. Families suffer. Relationships are harmed. No one wins.
Ministry leaders, like all leaders, are prone to either laziness or workaholism. On your worst days, on days when you are not living in submission to Christ, you either move toward being lazy or move toward finding your meaning in work. By God’s grace, we don’t need to live in either. But how do we recognize workaholism in ministry? What does it look like in our hearts? Here are three indicators:
1. Misplaced identity
If we find our worth in our work, we are workaholics. If my outlook on life is wrapped up in how “work is going,” in how I feel I am performing, then my identity is fully found in my job or career. If our rejoicing is based on the fruit of our ministry, our identity is found in what we do for Christ and not in what Christ has done for us. When identity is in work, working more and more is the logical response. Think about it: Why would you not give more to the place or role that defines you? A way to recognize workaholism is to evaluate how much of our outlook and perspective is formed by how ministry is going.
2. Cluttered mind
If our minds are continually focused on our roles and our jobs, we are unable to focus on family, friends, and other important aspects of our lives. If my mind is constantly on work, it has become primary for me. If a ministry leader cannot enjoy dinner with a spouse or wrestling with kids because ministry responsibilities are constantly on the mind, then workaholism is gaining traction in the heart.
3. Unloved family
The best way to detect workaholism in our hearts is to ask the ones closest to us. If our spouse feels the ministry is hurting the family, we should listen closely. Ask your wife. Ask your husband. We should never serve and love others without first serving and loving our families.