Is There No Rest for God’s Weary Ministers? | Mark 6


Lucien Simon-Christ Performing MiraclesReading through the sixth chapter of Mark, I recently noticed a way that Jesus relates to his disciples which is, at first, incredibly encouraging, but then gets exceedingly hard.

This is right after he had sent his disciples out, two by two, to try out this whole “ministry thing” by themselves. According to Mark, it was an incredibly powerful and effective time of ministry for them. They saw powerful things done, and they were able to play a part in them. They return from their first “ministry internship”, and this is where we pick up the story.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6.30-31

Jesus’ pastoral concern extends not only to his flock but also to the shepherds. They have done so much ministry and now he insists that they withdraw and rest and eat. Also, they shouldn’t simply do this by themselves as individuals, but with those who are also doing ministry. The leaders of the church should rest together as fellow weary workers.
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How to End Homelessness (this is what I do for a living) [VIDEO]


philly-rowhomes-neBelow, you will find a brief documentary that was done at my wonderful job, Pathways to Housing, to highlight the work that we do. It features many of the clients and coworkers I work with, and I had the chance to be present for a few of the film shoots. It is so beautiful and well-done. I’m so happy to share with you all a part of me that I don’t really talk about much in the rest of my life.

(Also, if you’ve lived in Philadelphia for a few years, you might recognize some folks in this video that you used to see on the street. But now, they have housing.)

I have spent most of my time in the field of social work pretty disengaged intellectually and emotionally. The older, more subtly coercive model of social work marked my previous companies, and the way the work was structured definitely played more to my weaknesses than my strengths. This left me in a constant state of feeling like I was terrible at my job. And so, it was just easier to not invest much of myself into it at all.

And so I’m only now learning how much of a difference it makes to love and adore your job. This is where I’m at now. I’m at an amazing company with amazing people doing amazing work that produces amazing results. I feel I’m good at my job, and I feel like I’m flourishing professionally, intellectually, and emotionally in it. There’s so much hope and excitement over my work. Here a couple of things I’ve recently heard clients say:

“When I was homeless, I felt like an animal, stuck in a concrete jungle. I only came out to eat and survive. Now that I have housing, though, I feel like a human again. It feels good to be human.”

“I haven’t been homeless my whole life, but I’ve always been a human being.”

And so, though much of my writing (and conversation) is centered around religious, political, and church things, I’m happy to share a little bit of how I spend 40+ of my hours each week. I hope you are encouraged and that you are offered a little bit of hope in the midst of our urban brokenness.

Today, I’m leaving my job. Monday, a new one begins.


paul-city-bwWhen this is post goes live, I will probably be sitting in my near-empty cubicle at work, furiously trying to finish up the last bits of paperwork that has so consumed the past year and half of my conscious thoughts. Today is my last day of this job.

Back in 2011, I wrote about me getting this new job as a case manager (a.k.a. “social worker”–in Pennsylvania, you can’t call yourself a social worker unless you have a degree in it). It’s been an amazing experience, with some of the most knowledgeable and supportive supervisors and co-workers I’ve ever had the privilege of being around.
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The Big News II (I’m not leaving Philly, it seems)


I, Paul Burkhart, now have a real job.

Like, a real real one.

Yesterday, I was accepted for a position at a program called Project Transition as a “Psychiatric Rehabilitation Counselor” (assuming that my background checks clear, of course. Until then, I can’t actually say I’m “hired” per se, I’m still a “candidate”). In short, this is my dream job. I will have a case load of about 5 individuals recovering from various mental disorders who I will pour into their lives trying to help them reintegrate into society. I will teach classes to everyone in the program on various parts of living life healthily. I will be doing assessments and creating treatment plans for my case load. The people I will work with seem amazing. Benefits kick in after only a month. It’s really good pay (at least for an entry level job). I will even have my own office space (and desk!).

The philosophy of the organization is right in line with mine: that people are not defined by their disease. They are fundamentally healthy individuals struggling with a disorder, rather than the view that would treat them as primarily disordered individuals struggling for health. It was so exciting sitting there as they told me everything about the organization. That reminds me, the interview itself was strange too. It was one of those weird circumstances that seems to surreal and – for lack of a better word – supernatural. In the entire interview I didn’t say more than a couple of sentences. They didn’t really ask me many questions. It was more like “hey, this is who we are. Wanna join us?”. It was so strange. I have the weakest resume one could imagine. I have waiting tables at Applebee’s and tutoring elementary school students on there and that’s it. Hardly the resume to get someone a professional counseling job. But nevertheless, I walked in, and the founder of the organization had made one of his monthly visits to this particular site just to interview me. When I got there, everyone already knew my name and who I was. When the founder had to leave the interview early and leave me with the site coordinators, he had the secretary send down paperwork to hire me, even before the interview was actually over! (Running the risk of sounding overly charismatic or Osteen-ish) I felt like I was walking in “supernatural favor”. Or something like that.

So what does all this mean? Well firstly, even though I loved and adored my time in Richmond the past few weeks and really wanted to move back there, it seems that God has intended for me to have longer-term plans for Philly. This job really is something I’m going to want to stay at for awhile. The people I will be around, the experiences I’ll get, and the real-word education I’ll receive (all while still taking WTS counseling classes) will be invaluable to me. So I’m here to stay, it seems. This would probably have been a problem a couple months ago, but recently Philadelphia has opened up to me (specifically South Philly) and I have met so many people I really want to live life deeply with for a while longer before moving on (not to mention my biggest bromances are here and here. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you, you, and you).

So here’s to God for blessing me far more than I could ever imagine. I pray this drives me further to Him and doesn’t make me feel like I don’t need him now. Because I do. I’ve definitely been seeing that greatly the past few weeks, and this has been the first little ray of light to burst out from the haze I’ve been in.

Philly, here I stay.

The big news . . .


Nope, not engaged.

Several people here in Philadelphia know this, but I realize hardly anyone in Richmond does, so here I am writing this now.

I won’t be coming back to Westminster next year.

Long story short, my undergraduate loan payments have been steadily increasing and are now getting to a place where my parents can’t handle it alone – nor should they (before you all ask: no, this isn’t the kind of loan that waits until I’m done to require payments; no, my parents can’t consolidate it; yes, we’ve thought through it all).  I’ve decided to take at least a year off from graduate studies to get a full time job somewhere and help pay some things off.I’m focusing in Philadelphia, and trying to stay here, but I’m also looking at jobs in other places (especially Richmond).

Academically, what does this mean?Well, so far I’m still signed up for one counseling class next semester in the evenings, but I’m going to start applying to various Ph.D. programs and seeing what happens.There’s a program at Princeton I’ve fallen in love with in “Psychology and Social Policy”.I’ve realized that I was seeing seminary somewhat as a potential aid in getting into a Ph.D. program, but frankly, it’s seems to only be hurting my chances (on many levels).So, I’ll see if I can get in without it and then go back to Westminster afterwards if I want.

Practically, this means a lot more time and freedom to read what I want, write what I want, minister in different ways, and just generally feel like an actual member of society.I’ve already started writing a little bit more, doing more web stuff (Reform & Revive has been amazing recently!), and (I can’t believe I’m admitting this now), I’ve started a podcast which I’ll write on more later.

Spiritually speaking, what does this mean?Well, the answer to that question deserves a whole post in its self.I’ve been encouraged that as the workload lightens and I seem to be leaving seminary in a sense, I find myself driven more to prayer and the Word of God than while I was in seminary.They don’t tell you that seminary is not a secluded spiritual resort, but rather the darkest front lines of battle.This has been the most intense spiritual year of my life.I’ve had some of my darkest nights and moments this past year.I’ve gone my longest stints ever without drawing near to my Lord in any way.In short, it’s been rough.In short, it’s been painful.In short, I think I came to seminary too soon.I came too young.I wasn’t ready to handle the weight that this institution would hold.I have not developed the maturity and cultivation necessary to have an anchor in my soul beyond my sheer white-knuckled will.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this past year has been amazing.It’s also been the best year of my life, I think.That’s generally how God works.Very Dickensian: the best of times, the worst of times . . ..I wouldn’t give this past year back for anything.My love, affection, and knowledge of my Lord have grown exponentially.If I never go back to seminary I will forever be grateful to the Providence of God for giving me these two semesters.

God has always dealt with me in such a way that I had a very good sense of what the future held for me.This is the first time in my life that he has allowed everything to really fall apart all around me in a matter of weeks.And this is his mercy to me.This is his love for me.It is his commitment to make me need him, because he himself is what I need the most.He is my anchor.He is my certainty.He is my Lord, and my God, and I love him.

So, we’ll see what life holds.God has still been gracious to me in this time. I have great friends and my church (though still going through so much turmoil) has still been healthy and amazing.  I’ve even realized that my life as it was wasn’t very financially sustainable.  I couldn’t continue into my mid- and later-20s still asking my parents for rent money while working 15-hour work weeks at various low hourly rates.  I should have decided to so this regardless of money.

I feel it’s appropriate I’ve written this entire post while I sit in what may be my last seminary class ever, Medieval Church.Which is a appropriate, I suppose.Just like this strange period in history, and more specifically where we are in this last class, I sit here with my Rome having fallen, some dark ages having passed, standing on the cusp of my Reformation, waiting to rediscover the nearness of my Lord.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have.