Mad Church Disease

Mike —  September 23, 2010 — Leave a comment

Anne Jackson has a new book out called Permission to Speak Freely that looks really interesting. I haven’t read it yet, but I did finally pull Mad Church Disease from my pile of books waiting to be read. The book digs into the struggle with burnout that so many pastors feel from the perspective of someone who’s been there (Jackson grew up as a pastor’s daughter and has worked in a number of ministries as an adult) and offers hope in “overcoming the burnout epidemic” (the book’s subtitle).

She points out some of the environmental factors inherent to ministry that contribute to burnout, but spends the bulk of the book seeking to give the reader some good tools for dealing with the stresses and expectations of ministry.
Rather than simply blaming church people for being over-demanding and irrationally critical, we need to find a better path to spiritual vitality and recovery from previous pain we’ve encountered. Mad Church Disease offers that kind of path and would be a great book for a tight group of ministers to go through together.
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Moving away from book review mode, let me just say that I’ve been burned out. Not to the point of walking away or self-inflicted sabotage, but there have been times in my ministry that I’ve had no emotional reserves to draw from, no spiritual strength to share… I was running on empty. I hope I can apply some of this book to the way I do ministry so that’s not an issue in the future. I want to do ministry for a long time. But if that’s going to happen in a healthy way, it starts with my communion with Christ. It’s too easy for me to slip into ‘make sure everyone’s happy with me’ mode where I’m too concerned with meeting everyone else’s expectations.
The earliest church leaders were recognized as those who ‘had been with Jesus’. Their ministry flowed out of their relationship with Him. If our ministry flows from anywhere else, the well’s going to run dry sooner or later. If you’re in ministry, do yourself a favor (not to mention the people you’re leading) and make sure your communion with Him is filling you sufficiently for the work at hand. If it’s not… it’s not Jesus’ fault. Back up and remember how to simply ‘be with Jesus’. Rediscover your identity in Him (not in your job title). Stop trying to carry the load alone. Find someone you can trust and work through the book together.
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Somewhat related posts from a few other voices:
You’ll Never Be Balanced from Mark Batterson
Ten Personal Growth Questions from Perry Noble
“Professional Christian”  from Tim Schmoyer

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