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Ministry Theology

Leading on Empty Review

Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, is a book about ministry burnout.  It chronicles Cordeiro’s journey through burnout and what he learned on the roach to recovery

For the most part, the book is helpful.  The book gave me some road markers to watch for in the future.  Two of the more helpful chapters were on depression.  It was scary to read actually, because I’d be willing to bet that most people would be lying if they said they didn’t experience most of the symptoms at varying times throughout a normal year!

One of the underlying themes of the book was simply to have our priorities in order.  This seems easy enough, but how often do we forget our priorities?  Cordeiro asks the reader to do an exercise to narrow down the essentials of life.  He says to list what the most important five percent of your life is.  This could be anything.  He lists things like his relationship with Jesus, his wife and kids, and pleasing God with his ministry.  “We won’t be held accountable for how much we have done,” he writes, “but for how much we have done of what He has asked us to do” (p. 79).

Later, he asks the reader to write down a handful of things that drains you and fuels you — whatever they are.  He says, “Your soul is like a battery that discharges each time you give life away, and it needs to be recharged regularly” (p. 88).  I found this helpful to re-discover what I really enjoy doing.

The only criticism I have is that the book can sometimes have a self-helpish feel.  Cordeiro says that it isn’t a self-help book, but at times he’ll write something like this: “Your greatest source of motivation is finding untapped potential yet within you.  You see, your future is not what lies ahead of you.  It’s what lies within you” (p. 205).  Out of context, that looks like a Joel Osteen sermon quote.  In the larger context of the book, the reader will know that Cordeiro believes that the gospel is our only healing power — that a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus is our only hope.  However, sometimes he fails to go far enough in being absolutely clear that this is what he means.  As a Christian reading a Christian book, I know what he means.  But will it be absolutely evident to other Christians?  I don’t know.  Our potential is within us, yes, but it’s in us only by God’s power.  Outside of the gospel we have no real potential.

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