Leading on Empty

Sometimes, your read books that are immediately pertinent to your specific situation.  You find yourself struggling financially so you pick up something by Dave Ramsey or Joseph Sangl.  Or perhaps you’re struggling in your marriage, so you grab Good Christians, Good Husbands? or Love and Respect or What Did You Expect? Other times, however, you read a book precautionarily.  You read a book on depression not because you find yourself slipping into the abyss, but because you want a better understanding of it.  Or in this case, you read a book discussing burnout, ministry-fatigue, and depression not because you’re necessarily wiped out, but in order to prevent that from occurring – well, that and you happened to win it in a giveaway.

In Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro shares from his experience of completely burning out several years ago, his realization of the specific causes of it, and the methods and practices that he has implemented to prevent it from happening again.  This is the kind of book that you read as though you and the author were sitting alone in a crowded coffee shop discussing life and ministry.  Then he leans in and asks, “Did I ever tell you about the time that I couldn’t go on?”  Then again, that’s how Wayne Corderio is (based upon the messages I’ve heard) – staggeringly personable – and that comes across in his book.

He discusses a subject that is oft-overlooked and avoided in churches (especially in church leadership) – depression.  In fact, “more times than not those stricken with depression are seen as emotional lepers, the walking wounded.” (p. 44)  He goes on to list those heroes of the faith that we look up to and their struggle with depression, as well as giving us insight into the common triggers of it.  If you fear you (or someone you know) might be walking into this sort of valley, this book provides some good insight to the triggers that cause depression as well as the symptoms that typically accompany it.

I really appreciated his explanation that leaders typically do things that they need not do.  According to Corderio, 85% of what we do can be done by anyone, 10% of what we do can be done by someone with some level of training (after all, there was a time that we couldn’t do it either), and that leaves only 5% that only we can do.  His challenge to us is to find that 5%.  That spoke volumes to me and is something that I’ll be processing and trying to move toward over the next few weeks.

His chapters detailing both the need and how to Sabbath (and Sabbatical) are invaluable resources.  Those chapters alone are worth the price of the book.  But with all of that said, this is the kind of book I would recommend reading pro-actively.  Don’t wait until depression and burn-out are at their worst to pick it up – it’s not that kind of book.  In that scenario, I would be much more likely to recommend John Piper’s When the Darkness Will Not Lift.

But for those who seek to lead well, and lead well over the long haul, I highly recommend this book.

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