In his book "Leading on Empty," Wayne Cordeiro shares the story of his own personal burn-out, which resulted from years of very successful pastoral ministry that he pursued without adequate attention to sustainability and personal well-being. He wrote this book as a means to share what he learned over the years, especially during and after his crisis of burn-out, to help other leaders, especially pastors, to avoid the trauma that he endured. The account is very personal and very specific, written in Cordeiro's typically accessible style. Though I read it in small bits over the course of several months, it could also probably be read in one or two sittings.
The strengths of the book are its practicality and specificity. Cordeiro offers a host of practices that pastors would be well-served to embrace or at least consider to avoid the sort of crisis that knocks so many hundreds of pastors out of ministry each year. He suggests that taking care of his body through diet, exercise, and sleep was essential. He suggests that maintaining spiritual disciplines like Bible study and prayer and developing other leaders around him were essential. He suggests that being committed to rest, by establishing a daily routine including moments of respite, committing to a weekly Sabbath rest, carving out time for periodic days of renewal, and understanding the value of sabbaticals every 5-7 years, was absolutely essential to him. He speaks about the value of giving necessary time and energy to his family and of scheduling his day to give his most productive time to his most important commitments. This is all great stuff, which we would all do well to consider.
As much as I agreed with almost everything that Cordeiro said in the book, I have several critiques to offer. First and foremost, I found the sheer volume of his suggested preventative measures to burn-out to be overwhelming. I almost felt like he was saying that if we all did these 57 suggested things, then all would be well, but the complexity of what he offered was simply too much. Unless my primary focus in life was to model my life after Wayne Cordeiro, I would quickly be overwhelmed and distracted by trying to implement all that he offered. On a related note, I thought that the general tone of some of his points were far too prescriptive, rather than merely being descriptive. It's one thing to say, "Here are some things that have been helpful to me, so I'd encourage you to consider them." It's an entirely different tone (and decidedly less helpful, I think) to say, "These are the 57 very specific things that you must do if you want to avoid burn-out." Do I really need to study the Bible using Cordeiro's SOAP method to be able to meaningfully engage with the Scriptures? Do I really need to go to bed at 9:00pm and wake up at 5:00am to get a good night of sleep? Cordeiro may think so, but I'm unconvinced that these approaches are universal. My final critique is that the main points of the book seemed to be rather unoriginal, stuff that I've read from the likes of Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Sam Rima, and many others over the years. I'm glad that the book has proven to be so helpful to most of the other reviewers, but it seemed to me that I had pretty much read or heard all of it before.
Ultimately, I want to reiterate that Cordeiro's book is a quick and helpful read. If you're completely unfamiliar with the areas of self-leadership and personal sustainability in ministry, this is a decent summary of worthwhile ideas. I wish the tone had been a bit less dogmatic at points, but Cordeiro has offered a helpful addition to the pastor's library.