Books I’ve Read Recently

173481762God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker. The transgender issue is a popular one in our culture right now. It’s not only a highly debated topic among people but is also becoming a normal part of our culture. From things like gender-nuetral bathrooms to more and more people adopting the transgender lifestyle and the necessary changes that takes. This issue isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. To be fair, this isn’t a topic I’m very familiar with and so far I haven’t done a lot of reading on it. That’s the reason I picked up this book and gave it a read. In this helpful book, Walker helps the reader understand what God says through His Word about the issue of gender identity. Before he dives into any Scripture he does a great job at setting up the book with a few helpful chapters on remembering that Jesus loved people (and we should too regardless of where they stand on this issue), tracing history to see how we got to where we are in our culture, and also defining the terms that go along with gender identity and associated issues. After all this Walker walks through the Biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption to show how being transgender and pursuing such doesn’t fit within God’s original design. He writes from an evangelical position that believes the Bible is God’s inspired Word and carries ultimate authority so his conclusion may not be the same as others who do not hold to this same view of the Bible. He ends the book with a few practical chapters on things like how should the church should respond, how parents should respond, and how Christians in general should respond. This was a very helpful book and I’d encourage anyone who wants to understand this issue better to read it.

41mEUKP5ywL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_United by Trilla Newbell. I recently came to two conclusion – I don’t read enough books written by women and I don’t read enough books written by people of color. In an effort to change that I picked this book up after my wife read it and spoke very highly of it. This little book is both a personal story as well as practical guide to pursuing racial unity within the body of Christ. In her own words, Newbell says this near the beginning of her book: “I’ll share about the beauty of diversity that can be on display to a broken world. We will look at my life as a black female and how God fulfilled a desire of my heart through friendships. I will encourage you to know the benefits of being united in Christ both practically and relationship and the mutual growth acquired through fellowshipping with those different from you” (page 20). I really enjoyed reading your own story as well as learning from many of the practical points she brought up throughout the book. I’d encourage anyone (especially those of us who are white) to read this book and pursue racial diversity in our churches.

31bKcx1VYwL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo. This is one of those books I started reading and was tempted to put down and not finish. Part of it was because the content was a bit different than I expected and what the content did present didn’t seem relevant to me. However, I’m a big fan of finishing books and making myself read outside my comfort zone. I’m glad I did because it turned out to be an excellent book. In this book Cutillo dives into modern health care and how we as a society are viewing and going about our health. He rightly points out we have become somewhat obsessive over it and with new technology are tempted to think we are in control of our health. Throughout this book Cutillo points to the Gospel as the only answer in this life as well as the benefit of modern heath care when used properly. Two sections of this book really stand out to me as highlights. First, there is a few chapters on death. In those chapters Cutillo does a great job at showing us how we as Christians should face death. It’s part of life and we should embrace it as such while clinging to our hope in Christ. Secondly, there is a chapter on health being a community thing. In this chapter we see that proper health and health care can be found and facilitated within a community of people who love and acre for one another. As believers, this community is the church and we should be loving and caring for one another.

Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Love Does by Bob Goff.

The Healthy Student Pastor

z8bka7hqa3i-jordan-mcqueenStudent ministry can be a very demanding and challenging thing (especially if you’re doing in a full-time role). The constant demand of students and parents who need your attention never ends. The hours can be odd with most of your events happening at night or on weekends. It can become draining as you try to keep your mid-week program fresh and attractive week in and week out. On top of your weekly program it seems like there is always another event right around the corner.

But don’t get me wrong, student ministry is an absolute joy. I am honored God has called me to full-time student ministry and He has given me an amazing church to do it in. However, I have come to realize that student ministry is often a very demanding area of ministry that requires you to be healthy. I’m talking spiritual, relational, physical, and emotional health. Being healthy in all areas of life is a must for student pastors.

Spiritual. The spiritual health of the student pastor is of utmost importance. It’s important to themselves, their families, their church, and their students. If a student pastor is not spiritually healthy the students and the ministry, along with many other things, will suffer. A student pastor must keep their relationship with God as their first priority. This means walking with God daily and growing closer to Him. This means consistently getting into God’s Word on a daily basis for spiritual nourishment and strength. One pastor shares some wise words in regards to this area – “Don’t neglect your heart. Spend time in the Word, pray, and let God speak to you. Carve out time each day for this” (from the book Growing Young, page 62).

Relational. Student pastors must also be healthy relationally. I think this first includes their families. Student pastors must never sacrifice their families on the altar of their ministry. Far too often I see student pastors who are giving everything they got to their ministries while their family suffers the consequences. Loving and leading your family should always comes first. This also includes friendships. Student pastors must strive to have solid friendships outside the walls of their ministries. This provides an outlet for the student pastor to hangout with friends with no ministry agenda attached.

Emotional. The emotional health of the student pastor is also very important. It’s easy for a student pastor to be focused on the emotional needs of others (students, parents, volunteers, etc.) while neglecting their own emotional health. The crazy hours and demands of student ministry can cause the student pastor to experience burnout or even depression in some cases. The demands of student ministry can also cause stress and anxiety. It’s important the student pastor takes these things seriously and seeks help when they need it. This is where having some solid friends outside of the student ministry can help. They can be a safe place to go for healing. Also, student pastors should never be ashamed of seeking professional counseling or even pastoral counseling from another pastor. These are avenues God can use to strengthen you and get you emotionally healthy. It’s also important the student pastor has a hobby outside of ministry that serves as an outlet for them to refresh and relax. This will help them maintain emotional health.

Physical. This is often the area of health student pastors neglect the most. In the midst of eating way too much terrible food with students, student pastors must strive to keep themselves in good shape. This goes beyond just eating right, which is important, but also includes things like regularly working out and getting rest. This also includes making sure the student pastor takes a day off. We all need a sabbath (a day to rest from work). Student pastors must not neglect taking a day off to rest, which is closely tied to their physical health.

As you can see, student pastors need to be healthy in multiple areas. A student pastor that is healthy in these areas will be a blessing to their families, church, ministry, and students.

How Pastors Can Avoid Burnout

Burnout is far too popular among pastors (If you don’t believe me, check out these statistics). I believe pastors face burnout because they don’t take the necessary steps to prevent it before it happens. Many times pastor’s hit their burnout stage and then look for help, but sometimes it’s too late. The key to avoiding burnout in ministry is taking steps to avoid it before it even becomes an issues. So what are some steps you can take to avoid burnout as a pastor?

Guard your time with God. Never let a day go by without spending some time with your Savior. Ministry is busy and will steal time away from God if you let it, so guard that time with all you’ve got. Find a time during your daily routine where you can get alone, unplug, and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer (here is a great online devotional tool I use daily).

Love the person of Christ more than the work of Christ. This one is tied closely to guarding your time with God. Unfortunately many pastors are more in love with ministry than they are with Jesus. I believe this happens to a pastor when he neglects his own personal time with God. If you are spending time with God, taking in His Word, and communicating with Him in prayer you will grow in your love for Jesus which will fuel you to do His work. When we don’t do it in that order, we end up doing His work by our own efforts and strength because we haven’t spend time falling more in love with Him. Don’t allow ministry to become your thing of worship, worship Jesus!

Take care of yourself physically. I’m preaching to myself when it comes to this one. Ministry will take all you have physically. Being a pastor can be one of the most physically exhausting things ever. Because of it’s demand on your body and energy, if pastor’s  don’t take care of themselves physically they can burnout fast. Take some time out of your busy schedule to exercise. The most helpful thing many pastors could do to fight against burnout is have a regular exercise routine. And remember, eating healthy is a must too. Our bodies are the instrument God uses to do ministry through us, so let’s make sure we take proper care of it.

Keep your marriage first. One of the reasons many pastor’s face burnout is because their marriages are suffering under the weight of their ministry. I don’t think it can be said enough, but your marriage come BEFORE your ministry. God has created you to be the pastor of your home before a pastor at your church. When your ministry comes before your marriage you are on the brink of burnout. When your marriage comes first and you’re striving to be a pastor at home first, your ministry will be in better shape and not running on empty, headed towards burnout.

These are just a few simple ways I believe pastor’s can avoid burnout before it happens. I would recommend that every pastor should read Wayne Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty (I recently wrote a review of it here).

[Question] How do you prevent burnout before it happens?