On Stress and Bible College and Ministry

I’ve never been the type for stress. I pride myself on my relaxed disposition and laissez-fair approach to life. Life on cruise control. That’s my default. But in the last few weeks I’ve been wracked by crippling stomach cramps and other weirdness of the belly. Well they weren’t crippling. That may have been hyperbolic. But they were bad. The source of such stress, so far as I can tell, is at least partly college. Bible College. I’ve spoken to a few other past and present students of Bible Colleges near and far. And they’ve reported similar symptoms and the knowledge of others also feeling similar symptoms. But why is it so. It’s Bible College.

Shouldn’t Bible College be an encouraging, edifying and nurturing experience full of grace and light? Well yes. And mostly it is. But for some reason the rationale that “what I’m doing has eternal significance” keeps creeping in. I want to turn every stone in every essay, I want to get every mark possible, not because I want marks, but because I don’t want to lose them lest they be the result of some deficiency in my knowledge that will find an outworking twenty years down the track. It’s almost worth becoming Baptist (simply because then I don’t have to get a degree).

When I studied Journalism I didn’t care. I just wanted the bit of paper, and the job. Uni was a breeze. I learned the essentials, came out (thanks to a natural inclination to journalism) able to do the job I was hired to do. I had matched certain areas of gifting with equipping. And it didn’t hurt.

Bible College, especially Bible College for the purpose of vocational ministry training, is ostensibly seeking to do the same thing, So what’s the difference?

Couple the stress of college with the increasing prevalence of ministry burnout, and stressed ministers (with all sorts of associated health problems) and I think we’ve got symptoms of a wider problem. Not to mention the burnout going on in the pews – roster fatigue, the problems associated with over-programming, and the burdens of underparticipation where the few do the work of the many.

Christian life is meant to be full of trials and sufferings, perhaps we’ve simply replaced external persecution with internal persecution in order to develop a whole new band of martyrs.

Something tells me that if ministry, training for ministry, and participating in church life is causing actual physical and mental health problems then we’re doing it wrong.