Book review: Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson
The most striking part of Anne Jackson’s book on ministry burnout, Mad Church Disease, is found in its final chapter.
Jackson, a staff member at a Nashville church and blogger, wrote about her experience with a supervisor at her former church who shot down her ministry dreams and tore them to shreds, and how the experience led to her leaving that church’s staff, and eventually for her and her husband leaving it altogether (That chapter can be downloaded here).
Fortunately, the ordeal didn’t lead to Anne Jackson’s ministry dying before its time.
Jackson saw the ugly side of the ministry as a preacher’s kid, and later went into the ministry herself and was hospitalized due to stress from her church duties.
Her experiences in life and ministry, and what she has learned from them in relation to burnout, can be read in Mad Church Disease, in a fashion that’s helpful and beneficial to not just anyone in ministry, but anyone with a pulse.
When reading this book, I tried to do so from the standpoint of the average person who wasn’t a professional minister, or church/ministry staff person. Someone who is a Christian, and either does some volunteer work for their church, or might deal with the same relational issues on the job that a church staffer would at his/her job.
My reaction is that if you’re alive, there are things in Mad Church Disease you can benefit from.
Her exhortation is for readers to understand the signs of burnout, both externally and internally, and take responsibility for their own healing and growth. She identifies four areas for readers to examine – spiritual, physical, emotional and relational – and states that becoming healthy is not an option.
Jackson also says that everyone’s true purpose is found in loving God and loving one’s neighbor, not in loving the church or ministry, and encourages the reader to seek God’s true purpose for his life. I’m glad to see Jackson’s emphasis on centering one’s ministry and life on Jesus.
I also liked her views on the necessity of being accountable to another, trust-worthy person; of being in community; of rest; of setting boundaries; of prayer; of Bible reading and memorization; and of eating right and getting regular exercise.
Having helped moderate a blog for three years that addresses issues of abuse by church leaders and how people are affected by that abuse, I am sensitive to how Jackson’s book might apply to hurting people.
I was happy when reading that Jackson not only can relate to such hurt, but reaches out to those who have been burnt by the church.
Though Jackson tells the reader that he or she needs to take responsibility for his decisions that led to their burnout, she also says that if the reader has been the victim of any kind of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, “you cannot accept responsibility for your abuser’s actions.” (p. 107) She does say that the reader can take responsibility for working through the pain of such abuse and urges him or her to do so.
I’m also happy that Mad Church Disease isn’t a book telling hurting, burnt-out people to ‘stop whining, suck it up, serve more and you’ll feel better’. The author does encourage the reader to recognize the problem and the need to recover from it, and to take steps to make that recovery happen.
Jackson also reminds the reader to find rest from his or her burnout in Christ.
She brings attention to “mad church disease” and lays out a plan for recognition of and recovery from it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself, and my opinions are my own and not those of the author nor the publisher. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”