Surrender and Self-Sufficiency in the Church

When I was nineteen years old, my grandfather was in his final hours of life after a long fight with cancer. He called each of his grandchildren into his room one at a time. I leaned over his fragile frame in order to hear the last words he would ever speak to me. He didn’t have the strength to open his eyes and could barely whisper the six words he spoke.

“Never give up on church.”

I told him I wouldn’t. But in order to keep my promise, I’d need to start making some significant changes in my life…like, actually going to church again. I had been out for a good three years, since my father left the ministry in a bloody battle of a business meeting.

Over time and with conviction, I slowly let my walls down and tried to make good on my pledge to my grandfather. My actions stemmed more from wanting to keep my promise than actually being obedient to what God wanted, but eventually my change of behavior caused a change in my heart and I fell in love with the church in all of her magnificence and her flaws.

I surrendered, slowly and timidly, to the call of unity God has placed on all His children. Surrender doesn’t come easily, especially when we’ve been hurt in the past. When we think about giving into something we used to push away from us, we’re met with an internal resistance. It’s easy to justify our actions that keep us walking the line between self-sufficiency and surrender.

photo credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via photopin cc

As I’ve spent time talking to other Christians, and some who have even—in their own words—“left the faith,” or “left the church,” I’ve noticed a pattern so common it’s become perfectly acceptable without question. Someone enters into a relationship with a community of faith, and the programs or the legalism or the perceived lack of authenticity turns them away. It’s either too structured to have “organic” community (which is not a Biblical concept, by the way) or it’s so “organic” that relationships never grow because we don’t know how to grow them.  So we bail.

I have a friend who’s an atheist but who stays in tune to what’s happening in different faiths. As he looked at the western Christian culture, it was easy for him to see the things that divide us. He bluntly asked me, “How can everyone in your faith be so divided yet claim to follow the same God?”

Good question.

I truly believe this break in our unity is a strategic plan of the enemy.

Many Christians today have fallen into a culture that tells us we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe and are entitled to be right in our beliefs. And because of the surplus of platforms from which we can speak, never before our generation has a group of people been able to voice their beliefs so loud and clear.

Some see this as progress. I see it as subtle (and at times, not so subtle) expressions of selfishness. Where in our proclamations and defenses of our personal beliefs do we find humility? Where do we find surrender?

We don’t.

In order to have healthy relationships with God and others, we must surrender. To God, we surrender our desire to live our lives for ourselves. Only by dying to ourselves—our human nature—can we truly live in the identity of who God created us to be. In order to embrace the person we are meant to be, we must let go of the person, the ego, we created.

With others, we surrender our need to be right. We surrender our need to be heard. We trust in the paradox of finding peace in serving instead of demanding to be served and complaining about it when we aren’t.

Surrender goes against our very nature to be independent. Surrender indicates we willingly choose to rely on others. We must rewire our thinking to recognize that needing another person (and being the person someone else needs) is not a weakness; it only strengthens us.


(Most of this post was excerpted from my new book “Lean on Me: Finding Intentional, Vulnerable and Consistent Community.” It comes out this fall, but you can get a few free sample chapters here or preorder the book here.)



Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church Burnout is Updated, Expanded and Available with the Devotional Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health

Me with the very first copy of the original MCD in what used to be the Borders on West End in Nashville.

Me with the very first copy of the original MCD in what used to be the Borders Books on West End in Nashville.

In 2009, Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic was published. Tens of thousands of people found hope and healing and the book was awarded Outreach Magazine’s “Vital Church Resource” Award. If you click on that link it takes you to the original book with the original reviews, so you can get an idea of what people thought of it.

Then, unexpectedly in 2012, I providentially got all the rights back to the book. Considering there were only a few remaining in print, I knew it had to be updated & reprinted.

In the mean time, Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health was released as and became a featured devotional on YouVersion for a month or two, which was pretty neat.

And now, Mad Church Disease: Healing from Church Burnout is back and ready to help you find healing in a revised and expanded fifth anniversary edition.

Mad Church Disease BundleThe new, expanded edition of Mad Church Disease includes:

  • Over 40 pages of updated and new content
  • Five entirely new chapters
  • A focus on the first principle of healing from burnout: reconnecting with God
  • A new section on creating healthy environments
  • Extra study guide questions

There are a few ways you can get your hands on these resources if you haven’t yet, or if you or your staff need a refresher. You can go the Amazon way:

Mad Church Disease on (Kindle & Paperback)

Beating Burnout on (Kindle & Paperback)
Or, you can order them through me. With the Exclusive Team Bundle Special, you’ll get:
  • Get 2 Copies of Mad Church Disease
  • 2 Copies of Beating Burnout
  • PLUS the eBook of each book 
  • and the audio of Beating Burnout
  • Which is $75 value for only $45 + S/H
Self-publishing is hard. Really hard. But when it’s all done, there’s no pressure to meet any sales quotas or get on any best-seller lists. I didn’t need to re-write Mad Church, but I wanted to because deep in my heart I know that there are people struggling with their calling, their workload, and burning out. So I hope this little project can help you (or someone you know) rest and heal.

Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #5: Preventing Burnout

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little video series with Dr. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway. This is our fifth and final interview (and keep in mind, there was only supposed to be one video that emerged from our conference room chat…his insight is just so good and his heart is full of compassion, I’m so pleased we got five!)

In this one, we discuss the root of burnout and how to prevent it spiritually, emotionally and physically.

If you’ve missed any of the previous videos (which range from 3-6 minutes long), you can watch them:

1) Beginnings of Burnout

2) The Roles of Millennials and Mentoring in Stopping Burnout

3) When Do You Quit?

4) Symptoms of Burnout

5) Preventing Burnout

This is also the last week you can get Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health on Amazon for 2.99 WITH a free audio book (after you email your receipt to me). You can also preorder the paperback over here! (If Amazon takes care of business, they’ll go out  next week!)


Praying you guys have a healthy weekend,


Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #4: Burnout Symptoms

In 2005, I found myself in a hospital totally burned out. At the time, I didn’t know it was burnout but after a week of (invasive, ahem) tests, they ruled out any disease. I was overweight, emotionally unstable, and isolated.

Dr. Rainer and I talk about some burnout symptoms and how he almost got to a point of burning out himself.

One of the most important questions I’ve ever been asked: “Does working in this church interfere with your communion with Christ” still influences me today.

Check out today’s interview with Dr. Thom Rainer of LifeWay for Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health (which is on sale at Amazon for just 2.99 through Friday or you can preorder the paperback here!)


Beating Burnout Interview with Dr. Thom Rainer #3: When Do You Quit?

It’s a short one but a good one.

How do you know if you’re supposed to leave serving at your particular church?

How do you know if you should stay?

How do you deal with the expectations others have on you?

How do you keep an attitude of joy even when you’re faced with tough challenges?

Check out today’s interview with Dr. Thom Rainer of LifeWay for Beating Burnout: A 30 Day Guide to Hope and Health (which is on sale at Amazon for just 2.99 through Friday or you can preorder the paperback here!)