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I enjoy watching the ABC show, Shark Tank.

It’s entertaining, funny, informative, and at times—touching. The show reminds me about the importance of focus, passion, hard work, and commitment to one’s calling. It’s a weekly testament to the power of diligence, consistency, and risk-taking.

But one thing stands out to me like a sore thumb almost every time I watch Shark Tank. This recurring theme is unmistakable, heralded, and worn as a badge of honor. It’s applauded and cheered. Here it is: The idea that success comes only by working 24 x 7 x 365 on your business.  In world of The Tank, you realize your dreams by skipping sleep, ignoring relationships, and putting your health at risk.

As much as I like to see the people on the show succeed in pursuing their dreams, am I the only viewer who wonders “At what cost?”

Business owners and marketplace workers aren’t the only ones who struggle with workaholic tendencies. Pastors, missionaries, and all sorts of ministry leaders get caught in workaholism’s web. Add a layer of pseudo-spirituality into the mix, and you have a recipe for burnout, depression, moral failure, etc. When you love what you do for a living—when work doesn’t feel like work because of your passion for it—you’re at more risk than most for falling into the workaholic treadmill. When you’re experiencing amazing success . . . be careful. Success can make you feel invincible. News flash: you’re not invincible.

Please understand: I’m not making a case for laziness. Are some ministry leaders lazy? Yes. Some have rejected the workaholism of their predecessors, only to swing too far to the other extreme: slothfulness. If you’ve moved to the lazy side, snap out of your lethargy and get to work! In my view, laziness and workaholism are evil twins. Both will short-circuit your calling. Health is located somewhere in the middle.

The truth is, most ministry leaders land on the workaholic side of the equation. The quest for growth (not a bad thing by the way) often translates to saying yes to work more than to their marriage. Yes to their dream more than to their kids. Yes to success more than to a close relationship with the God who called them into the ministry in the first place. Workaholic behavior puts leaders, their families, and their ministries at serious risk.

Not enough space in this blog to list all of the subtle dangers of workaholic addiction, but let me give you three:

Workaholism can lead to stupidity

We do stupid things when we get tired. Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Back in the 1980s, we had the fall of the Jimmys—Bakker and Swaggart. I was at a conference in Grand Rapids, MI where the keynote speaker addressed Swaggart’s indiscretions with one sentence: “Jimmy Swaggart needed to play more golf.” I remember as a novice pastor thinking the speaker’s advice made no sense. But as I’ve gotten older, I wonder how much an insane pace contributed to Jimmy’s failure. The more growth that takes place in your ministry, the more pace becomes an issue. And the more tempted you’ll be to rationalize an out-of-control schedule.

Workaholism can lead to arrogance

God gave us the principle of Sabbath rest as a gift—a weekly reset button—a day to downshift, relax, and rest. Pushing this weekly reset button reminds us our life’s work is ultimately God’s, not ours. It keeps us humble. Workaholism can trick us into arrogantly accepting more responsibility than is sensible. It’s a breeding ground for pride. When we blow by God’s command to rest weekly, it’s easy to start taking all the credit for our success. When we go there, we’ve entered the danger zone. The scary truth is: the distance between workaholism and arrogance is short.

Workaholism can lead to a premature exit

Rest at proper intervals extends our shelf-life and actually increases our productivity. God can get more done through us over a longer period of time when we adopt a healthy work/rest rhythm. Leaders teach the people in their churches . . .  and rightly so . . . that when they tithe, God will make 90% of their income go farther than 100%. I submit to you the same principle is true about our schedule. When we obey God’s commandment to observe Sabbath, when we walk in a healthy work/rest rhythm, we discover capacity we didn’t know existed. Capacity to love our spouse. Our children. Capacity to love and lead His people. How is that possible? It’s possible because in God’s economy, His way of doing things is incalculably higher and better than ours.

So, I’ll keep watching Shark Tank. I’ll laugh, learn, and be motivated to work diligently—without swallowing the lie that workaholism is the secret sauce of success.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

P.S. – Converge Coaching is forming a new leadership cohort, starting in January 2019, to bring accomplished experts from the pastoral field to discuss issues such as:

  1. Longevity: Getting yourself to the next level before getting your church to the next level
  2. Leading others better by learning to lead yourself first
  3. Breaking through attendance barriers
  4. Releasing more qualified people into ministry
  5. Leading change
  6. Resolving conflict
  7. Driving a unified culture
  8. Making disciples in the 21st century

You can find more information about the cohort here. Take a minute to learn more about how to become the best version of yourself and reach your leadership potential.

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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