bakerImage Two: The Starving Baker

This is a common hazard for leaders. It’s the baker who spends so much time baking for others; he forgets to eat and starves himself. Leaders must feed themselves for personal growth.

Imagine, if you will, you visit a new bagel shop not far from your campus. You love going there because the chief baker has created a new recipe for breads, pastries and cinnamon rolls that are better than any you’ve ever tasted in your life. Soon, word gets out about this bagel shop. Crowds start forming lines each day, waiting for the new confections to come from this baker’s marvelous kitchen. The baker doesn’t have enough help and ends up trying to serve all the customers himself. He is scurrying back and forth, busy with all the requests of the people – but oblivious to what’s happening to him. His exhaustion is quickly becoming burnout. What’s worse, as you watch him for a few weeks, you see a change. This man is getting thin, very thin. It almost seems like he’s shriveling up. What’s the deal?

You decide to just sit down and observe for a few hours. Suddenly the problem becomes obvious. This man never stops to eat. The irony is he is busy serving bread to everyone else, but never stops long enough to feed himself. With food all around him, he is starving. Hmmmm.

Do you get the picture? So many leaders fail to tend to themselves and eventually are unable to really serve others. They are starving intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. When they do read their Bibles, or listen to CD’s or tapes, it is always for someone else. They are always preparing some Bible study for a group or message for others. They read for “program”, not for personal growth, and neglect to consume the nourishment or apply it to their own lives. Their “talk” is great, their “walk” becomes fake. They go through the motions, but aren’t really spending time eating the “bread of life” (John 6:35). They are spiritually starving…so close to food but never eating.

The iceberg reminds us that leaders must lead themselves before leading others. The Starving Baker reminds us that leaders must feed themselves before feeding others.

I wish Jason would have learned this principle as a student. During his junior year his attitude went sour. It shocked his friends. He lost any drive to stay involved in his campus ministry, his fraternity and student government. He became bitter and sometimes took it out on his girlfriend, Lauren. When she finally confronted him about his attitude he grew quiet at first. Eventually, he confessed he felt like a fake and was tired of trying to be the perfect Christian. The more they talked the more Lauren could see the reality. Jason wasn’t a fake. He just wasn’t taking time to invest in his own relationship with Jesus. He burned out because he ran out of gas, spiritually speaking. His gas tank was on empty. He was so busy leading the group meetings he had become the starving “baker.”  Jason is an interesting contrast to Stacey. Stacey and Jason were students on the same campus. Stacey was busy with both soccer and student government activities, and on top of that, led a mentoring group for freshman girls. Interestingly, Stacey never ran out of gas. Her busyness never led to a bad attitude or critical spirit. Her friends marveled at how she seemed genuinely happy, and although her life was busy, her mind was at peace. How did she accomplish this? She took time to feed herself.

She always reminded her friends how her dad talked to her about “sharpening the axe.” This term came from a little story about two lumberjacks who challenged each other to see who could cut down more trees in one day. At daybreak, the first one began furiously chopping down trees. He worked up a sweat early on, and by noon had cut down sixteen trees. The other lumberjack had only cut down four, because he took the first two hours to sharpen his axe. As he sharpened it, his challenger laughed at him knowing he was doomed to lose the bet with all that wasted time.

That’s when things got interesting. By early afternoon, the first lumberjack was slowing down. It took him almost an hour to cut down one tree while his friend was picking up speed. How could this be? Certainly he was as strong as his friend. Unfortunately, strength had little to do with it. It was all about whose axe was sharper. The sharper the axe – the quicker the trees came down. By late afternoon, the second lumberjack who had sharpened his axe had passed up his friend by several trees and won easily. Hmmmm. It seemed like such a waste of time to sharpen the axe in the morning, but in the long run, it had saved him time and brought him better results. That little story stuck with Stacey and saved her sanity as a student leader. She took care of herself so she could take of others.

A Look at the Book

Check out Ecclesiastes 10:10 in your Bible. It says:

If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.  

The lumberjack story was inspired by the Scripture above. We all understand the importance of “sharpening the axe.” Why do you think we fail to do it? Why does it seem like a waste of time?

Look at the verse above. What was King Solomon saying with this verse? Put it in your own words.

Look up Song of Solomon 1:6. The last sentence of that verse says: They made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard. What is the “lesson” of this verse?

Staying “sharp” can mean lots of things. How do you do it? How do you feed and refresh yourself?

Getting Personal

Give yourself a score based on how well you practice the following spiritual disciplines:

1)      Devotions  (reading the Bible just to connect with God relationally)

1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)  9)   10)


2)      Simplicity (simplifying your life by clearing out the mental and physical clutter)

1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)   9)   10)


3)      Prayer (talking with God and getting to know Him better through conversation)

1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)   9)   10)


4)      Study and meditation (deeper study of the bible, focusing on certain words or thoughts.)

1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)   9)   10)


5)      Worship (taking time to honor God; to tell Him all He’s worth; to thank Him; to enjoy His


1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)   9)   10)


6)      Fasting (going without food or some pleasure in order to focus on God and your spiritual growth.)

1)  2)   3)   4)   5)   6)   7)   8)   9)   10)

Practicing the Truth

 Try this out for one week. Read a short scripture form the Bible, and journal three short paragraphs based on what you read. It doesn’t have to be long – just jot down your thoughts on these issues:

Their Time: Jot down a few sentences on what was being said or done by the original audience. You can almost paraphrase the verses. In your words explain what was happening during their time.

All Time: Now jot a sentence or two on what you think is the all-time principle you can learn from the passage. Is there a truth that is timeless you can pull from the verses?

 My Time: Finally, jot down your personal application. What should you do as a result of reading this Scripture? You may want to write out a prayer for yourself.


I suggest you start this discipline by reading one of the Gospels. Take a story from Jesus’ life and journal the three paragraphs above. It doesn’t have to be a whole chapter, just a story. You might be amazed by what you learn from your journaling.