good books

“Pastors at Greater Risk” 
by H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman
(Regal Books, 2003)

We continue from where we left in the last BTW.

In chapter six, “We Suffer Alone With Money Problems,” the authors take up the struggle many ministers face in trying to provide leadership in an often-affluent community of faith, when they themselves usually do not share that affluence.  In the 1992 Leadership magazine survey, 70% of pastors said their compensation contributed to marital conflict.  The pastorate falls far short of most other professions in providing motivation for growth or promotion.

Like their parishioners, clergy and their families are susceptible to overspending and debt.  In an interview with Christian financial counselor Ron Blue, London and Wiseman explore ways to ensure financial stability for the professional minister.  Some of the ideas Blue shares---tithing, eliminating not only debt but unnecessary borrowing, saving for retirement, clear communication concerning financial matters, and taking advantage of certain tax breaks for ministers, such as housing allowance---are not exactly new, but can make a difference when consistently practiced.  Perhaps more importantly, the authors admonish pastors to look at money in new ways, keeping God’s perspective on wealth while coming to terms with such contemporary realities as dual incomes and bivocational job/ministry situations.

“Recovery From Stress and Burnout” is dealt with in Chapter Seven in an interview with someone known for his research on depression, anxiety, stress, sexuality and the hazards of ministry.  “In the following conversation, Archibald Hart … offers a unique take on helps for the prevention, diagnosis, prescription and restoration of stress and burnout among pastors”  (p. 173). 

This is perhaps the most practical section of the book.  It grapples with the phenomena of burnout.  London and Wiseman take pains to warn and equip the modern minister against its devastating effects.  “Type A” personalities in the pastorate are vulnerable to stress, which may evidence itself in classical physical manifestations like heart disease, high blood pressure, or ulcers---all well known, clear, and present health dangers for the ministerial professional.

There is a distinction between physical stress and emotional or psychological burnout, which may take a more profound, if less obvious toll, on the entire ministerial profession.  This type of burnout appears to more severely affect the “Type B” minister, who being less driven, may be more easily disillusioned.  Rather than in physical ailments, emotional or spiritual burnout may result in self-destructive behaviours like abandoning the family or ministry, marital infidelity, or other acts of irresponsibility, which could cripple or end a ministerial career.

One of the most important factors in combating burnout is a peer support system where warning signals---for example, paranoid responses to petty problems or physical ailments---can be flagged and dealt with.  Here is their prescription for pastors and burnout:

  • Rethink your day off; wean yourself from the “adrenaline-addiction” of task-oriented time.

  • Understand your personality type, recognizing the ways burnout is most likely to affect you.

  • Welcome your spouse into prevention; she knows and understands you best.

  • Reach out across the isolation to a trusted confidant, and avoid the “lone ranger” syndrome.

  • Take charge of your prevention or recovery---no one else is likely to.

  • Confront your addictions, the areas in which you are most vulnerable to burnout’s attacks.

  • Limit the “clinging vines,” for example, people or activities that dilute your ministry and family time.

  • Get back to doing what you want to do; it is what you do best.  

In chapter nine (“Pursue Personal Holiness”) the authors remind pastors that their best weapon against stagnation and burnout is nurturing their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  By developing the spiritual discipline of holiness and spending time with Christ in prayer, ministers can rediscover balance in their calling.

In the concluding chapters of the book, the co-authors link what the pastor needs to do with the support of the church and offers a “twelve-step program” for the minister whose heart’s desire is to fall in love with his calling once again.  Here are their “Twelve Steps to Overcoming the Risks:”

  • Resist personal spiritual power leakage.  Without a pure, personal faith shining through, all the activities of ministry ring hollow.

  • Commitment to contentment and change.  Gratitude will often help produce the changes that otherwise might meet with resistance.

  • “Re-vision” your mission.  Refocus on a clear, “understandable purpose that will link mind, motivation, and muscle.”

  • Choose the “abundance mentality.”  Rather than being satisfied with mere survival, realize that God wants to abundantly bless your ministry.

  • Cultivate a breakout spirit.  Take your cues from creative leaders in church history like Paul, Luther, and Wesley, who found fresh ways to offer their societies the healing grace of the gospel.

  • Question the “quality vs. quantity myth.”  Quality is often the determining factor in the quantity of growth many successful churches experience.

  • Transform ambiguities into authenticities.  Communicate clearly in your preaching by avoiding theological jargon, “insider language” or “Christianese,” pop psychology, or high-sounding but empty speech.

  • Cherish people.  Apply the “Common Harry test”---will your ministry meet the needs of the ordinary citizen of your parish or community?

  • Fuel perseverance with passion.  Find the ministry project you are most excited about, and you will probably maintain the motivation to see it through.

  • Treasure the pleasure of God.  Like Eric Liddell of Olympic fame, keep your eyes on the One for whom you are running (Heb. 12:2) as you maintain your internal equilibrium.

  • Dare to lead.  Leadership is not simply bestowed upon the pastor; it is earned by humble service, true concern for people, and creative vision and initiative.

  • Exegete your environment.  Pastors skilled in “rightly dividing the Word of truth” must also become proficient in reading the needs of the community in which they minister, and understanding the great challenges of their day.

(Reviewed by Dr John Lim)

SPECIAL REPORT

Postgraduate Diploma in Christian Studies (Dip CS)

Hukali Aye

Bernard Chaing Boon Twee

Wilfred Chan Weng Nam (magna cum laude)

Lewis Lew Boon Chong

Yue Fah Yong

 

Master in Christian Studies (MCS)

In absentia:

Edwin Tay Ed Min (summa cum laude)

 

*cum laude              “with praise”

magna cum laude   “with high praise”

summa cum laude   “with highest praise”

 

PRIZES:

Dean’s Prize (Dip CS)

(in memory of the late Mr Charles Phan Chauw Fatt)

This prize was awarded to Wilfred Chan Weng Nam.

 

Dean’s Prize (MCS)

(in memory of the late Mr Charles Phan Chauw Fatt)

This prize was awarded to Edwin Tay Ed Min.

 

Old Testament Prize

(in memory of the late Elder Lee Tsu Hwai)

This prize was awarded to Edwin Tay Ed Min.

 

New Testament Prize

(in memory of the late Dr Benjamin Chew)

This prize was awarded to Edwin Tay Ed Min.

CHAPEL NOTES

We were privileged to welcome Dr & Mrs Dan Jessen from U.S.A. Dr Dan Jessen spoke on the fact that no matter badly scared (emotionally and spiritually) we may be, God in His love and mercy can still use us for His  purpose and plan.

Chapel Speaker next week on 18 Feb will be Dr Tan Lai Yong.

NEWS BITS

  1. Convocation. The photos and VCD are ready for order. For more details, please contact any of the Library staff at Tel: 63538071.

  2. Students who have registered for the following courses, kindly take note of the new commencement dates:

  • The Use of Prayer in Worship (started on 11 Feb)

  • Counselling Skills: Deading with Crisis Situations (starting 18 Feb)

  • Introduction to Biblical Archaeology  (starting 21 Feb)

  1. Courses commencing next week:

  • Vocation, Work & Ministry (starting 19 Feb, Thu), by Prof Paul Stevens/Dr John Lim)

  • Isaac, Jacob & Joseph: God’s Grace in a Dysfunctional Family (starting 21 Feb, Sat), by Dr Philip Satterthwaite. This course will be conducted at Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

  1. Dr Ng Peh Cheng taught a course on Research Methods at Asian Cross-Cultural Training Institute on 9 Feb. She will be conducting Teacher Training at Bethesda Katong on 14 and 21 Feb.

Building Fund as at 3 Feb 2004

A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...

Mr Joseph Tan  10/2

Ms Chua Wei Chin  10/2

Mdm Melinda Lee  11/2

Mr Abel Choy  11/2

Mr Jason Loy  12/2

Mr Simon Wan  12/2

Dr Bryan Lim  13/2

Ms Kyrie Sankaran  13/2

Mr Andrew Chua  15/2

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