I was finally honest with myself: I hated the ministry. I was tired of the lies, the pretending, the guilt, the expectations. I wanted out. I’m sorry, God, I prayed. I gave it my best shot. I tried to do it in your power. It didn’t work.
– Pete Scazzerro
Summary: As I read this book, the same thought kept coming across my mind: I am so glad that I am not a pastor! These guys are pouring their hearts into their ministries and are often met with burnout, unfair criticism and pain that they don’t feel free to share. Like a slow leak in a gas tank, ministry killers slowly rob pastors of the joy and passion they once had until they are completely running on empty. When combined with factors such as isolation, pastor are especially susceptible to infidelity and moral compromise. The system is broken and it is no wonder that many pastors have fallen and/or left the ministry.
In the book 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them, Pastor Charles Stone identifies common “ministry killers” and how the pastor can protect him or herself. In doing so, he relies on research from over 1,900 pastors and 1,000 non-pastors in partnership with the Barna Group, LifeWay Research and NationalChristianPoll.com from Christianity Today, Inc. Stone distills the results into the following categories:
1. Head-in-the-sand mentality that denies existing problems
2. Emotional investment in the wrong issues
3. Unhealthy responses to ministry frustrations
4. A lone ranger attitude that says, “God and I can handle this”
5. Attitudes and actions that lead to lonely, hurting spouses
The book is broken down into IV parts. Part I presents the case that it behooves pastors to pay attention to what frustrates them before those issues fester and damage them, their families and/or ministries. Part II unpacks the research into 3 broad areas: what frustrates pastors most (killers), how they react and what that want most from people in their churches. Part III deals with how to defeat the ministry killers. Part IV is written directly for pastors’ spouses (addresses killer #5).
Positives: This is a much-needed book. The emotional health of the pastor will go a long way in setting the tone of the emotional health of the church. Rather than being blind-sided, pastors need to know what challenges to expect and how to overcome these challenges. This book also focuses on priorities and includes an eye-opening section on the unique challenges faced by the pastor’s wife.
The writing is current and includes many excellent quotes from other ministry leaders. Stone’s humility, humor and openness about struggles he has faced make him a likable writer who is easy to take advice from. As a pastor for over 30 years, he also has the experience from which to draw. In particular, Stone knows how to relate to pastors who had big dreams for ministry and ended up with small congregations. He doesn’t pretend to have never wanted more numbers.
Negatives: There was not much that I didn’t like about this book, but there were two things I might have changed. First, I felt that it could have been better organized. It seemed to jump around – especially for a book with such a clear title. Not until part 3 does Stone begin to go through the killers one by one. This made the beginning of the book confusing to me as I wasn’t sure if we were on a ministry killer, and, if so, which one.
Secondly, I didn’t see the need for Stone to relate so many of his thoughts to the research findings. As Stone acknowledges, statistics are subject to all kinds of problems. Though others will like the research, I felt like it bogged things down and would have preferred that he primarily spoke from what he has seen over his many years in ministry and what he believes to be the case.
Rating: 5/5 (Books like this one are must reads for pastors. If you are not a pastor, tell your pastor that you appreciate him/her. Chances are that your pastor can use it.)
About the Author: Charles Stone serves as the senior pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church, a church of over 1,000 attendees in the Chicago suburbs. His personal blog and website can be found at charlesstone.net.
This book was provided for review by Glass Road Public Relations. It is being published by Bethany House and will become available in May 2010. To learn more about or purchase on Amazon, click here. If you are a pastor and think you would enjoy reading this book, let me know and I will send you my advance review copy.