"It is my hope that you'll treat this book more like a tornado siren than a wet floor sign."
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I Wish I Had This Book Years Ago
I remember like it was yesterday. I had just moved away home for the first time in my life. I walked into a middle school gym in West Knoxville, greeted by a young guy named Wes. Soon after, I was approached by an energetic, red-bearded, bald guy who was the lead pastor Legacy Knoxville. His frame, reminiscent of collegiate distance runners who sport $400 Garmin watches and heart rate monitoring chest straps, was a picture of health! Since church planters are usually the crazy guys who have caffeine piped in via IV, work 100 hours a week, and somehow manage to keep their hipster beards perfectly groomed, I didn't think twice about Luke's health or ability to get the job done.
Months later, I was sitting with him at a coffee shop discussing a leadership cohort at Legacy and having accountability discussions with him when he told me the story of his burnout several years prior. I had never heard of burnout and still couldn't imagine a pastor being unable to get out of bed. God is sovereign, right? He can keep pastors from being weak and burning out!
Though I took Luke seriously, I couldn't imagine ever burning out. I was a millennial in the invincible stage of life known as "the 20's". Sometime after that conversation, I attended a conference called "How To Screw Up a Church" in which he discussed burnout among other topics. Still feeling invincible, I agreed with a close friend that we didn't need to be legalistic about sleep and diet because God will use us as He sees fit. If Spurgeon, Calvin, and Luther could survive on little to no sleep, so can I!
It wasn't until I moved back home, changed jobs, lost a cousin and grandfather in two months, starting raising my second daughter, and hit some significant financial struggles that I experienced a season of burnout. I wasn't even an elder yet, but I was preaching some, teaching Sunday School, leading a community group, and seriously discussing the possibility of becoming a pastor at my local church. At the same time, I couldn't sleep, my acid reflux was worse than ever, I developed some serious IBS symptoms that got me in trouble at work, my anxiety skyrocketed, and my energy plummeted. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me!
I was I had Leadership Durability back then.
Leadership Durability by Luke Thomas is one of those books that you'll probably read through the first time and say, "Ah, that doesn't apply to me". Your pastor friends will, too. They will probably push back with some pious rejections about how we need to trust God more than diet, sleep, medicine, etc. I've been on both sides of these conversations, feeling overly skeptical sometimes and bitterly frustrated at others.
If Luke didn't write this book, I would be inclined to believe the same thing. If I hadn't seen pastors in my own life on the verge of burnout, I would think otherwise. If it weren't for my own experiences with overwork and constant stress, I would write this book off, too. It is my hope that you'll treat this book more like a tornado siren than a wet floor sign. For many of us—whether we are leaders or not—the ominous clouds, cool wind, and rumbling thunder in the distance have been ignored for too long. It's time to take cover.
"I'm thankful to have met Luke, and it is my hope that you'll treat this book more like a tornado siren than a wet floor sign."
Some authors are unnecessarily provocative. Luke isn't one of them. Sometimes we need Terry Tate, The Office Linebacker (be prepared for some language if you look him up!) to slam us into the wall when we do stupid stuff. In many ways, Luke offers a much needed and well appreciated wounding to my ego. I'll leave you with a few examples:
As a hungry reader and semi-professional Googler, I do a lot of research. I found out the other night that mid back pain is a sure sign of cancer, even though it's likely to be a pulled muscle or minor strain that a chiropractor adjustment and some physical therapy can fix. I've read up on adrenal fatigue, burnout, fad diets and their thousands of alterations, masterclasses for more energy, HIIT training techniques, and much more! However, I've never actually been to a naturopathic doctor, read books and research papers on these topics, received extensive testing and diagnosis of issues, or worked with specialists in these fields.
Leadership Durability boasts a hefty lists of references from noteworthy Christian authors from Kevin DeYoung and Jerry Bridges to experts in productivity, nutrition, and health like Cal Newport and Ben Greenfield. Luke disperses technical language, relevant quotes, and clear explanations to help readers understand the nuance and validity of his recommendations as well as the depth of research behind them. Aside from reading this book, I now have a wealth of resources to dive deeper into specific areas Luke covered.
Luke Thomas pastors a local church. More specifically, he is one of the pastors at Legacy Knoxville, and he penned Leadership Durability with a desire to help other pastors and leaders lead well. He lays out copious amounts of scientific and psychological research to back his points, yet he is more concerned with being godly, Christ-honoring pastors. In order to do this we have to humble, and "the key here is to be totally honest with yourself, freely acknowledging you’re a cracked and imperfect jar of clay that God has grace and love for. Health and growth begins here" (p. 63).
In one of his frequent reminders to find true rest, Luke cuts deep and urges that "if you’re interested in avoiding burnout, or are attempting to come out of burnout, you must find rest, find it often, and do it to the glory of God!" (p. 174). He is not offering secular psychology or worldly self-help, because the results will only be superficial and short-lived. For pastors and godly leaders in a variety of fields, this is never enough. Rather, we must make it our life's goal to preach the gospel to ourselves and remember Jesus' powerful—and deeply truthful—words, "apart from Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
If you're a leader, get your hands on Leadership Durability. We're not invincible and we're certainly not beyond the need to grow in some of the most vital areas of our lives. If you're not a leader, you can still benefit from much of what Thomas teaches here. Pastors love gifts, especially good books! Grab a copy for your pastor!
Leadership Durability by Luke Thomas will be released on June 28th, 2019. Pre-orders are available now!