Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pastoral Burnout and the Neglect of Godly Living

Albert N. Martin, YouLift Me Up: Overcoming Ministry Challenges (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2013). 143pp. Paperback.

Reviewed by Dr. Ryan McGraw

Who we are as Christians is the decisive factor in determining our usefulness to others as servants of Christ. Al Martin’s You Lift Me Up shows the connection between perseverance and usefulness in the ministry and a conscientious and consistent application of the principles of Christian living. This is one of the best books that I have ever read on the Christian ministry. The reason for this is that it grounds an effective ministry in the general contours and disciplines of the Christian life. Martin shows that lack of effectiveness and burnout in the ministry almost always stems from neglect of the basic components of godly living.

The title to this book is tragically misleading. Its might suggest that the author addresses depressed ministers or presents case studies of pastoral dilemmas. Instead, he treats the all-too-common problems of ministerial backsliding, burnout, and what he calls washout. Martin addresses vital topics and common pitfalls, such as being distracted in our devotions, neglecting “generic Christian duties,” maintaining a good conscience, isolating ourselves from the friendship of the congregation, becoming enslaved to people who are overly dependent on us, limiting our studies to sermon preparation, hiding our genuine humanity, obesity among ministers, and the neglect of exercise and proper diet. This reviewer wishes that every chapter of this book and virtually every line of its pages could be burned into the hearts of every seminary student and minister of the gospel. Almost all of these areas are commonly neglected, and all of them are essential to a healthy Christian life, let alone an effective Christian ministry.

People often want to know how to be good spouses, godly parents, faithful students, diligent employees, and many other special areas of interest the Christian life. While it is useful to target all kinds of people and to apply the word to them specifically, the secret of godly living lies in learning to apply one set of biblical principles to every area of life. A man’s character in relation to the Triune God determines how he will serve as a minister. This make this book profitable to everyone, and not to ministers only. There are many books on the market today. If all books were a “must read,” then none of them would be. Among modern works on pastoral theology, this reviewer must say of You Lift Me Up as David did of Goliath’s sword, “There is none like it, give it to me.” Read it and buy a copy for a friend in the ministry whom you care for and love dearly.

The preceding was published in New Horizons.