Book Review: Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion (Wayne Cordeiro)


I am not sure I am leading on empty, but it might be wiser to read a book like this before you are. Spiritual health is an important focus of mine. If my spirituality is struggling, the ministry will be struggling, and this will create negative consequences for the entire congregation. Paul told Timothy, "watch yourself." This book is a good reminder of what makes your heart fly for God. Too often, we can do ministry, and sometimes create unhealthy behavior in the process. You are doing the right things, but doing them the wrong way.

First of all, the book does a good job of talking about depression, and the negative spirit that can happen to the best of men in ministry. Jeremiah, Elijah, etc, were people that struggled with this. It is not a statement about Character. It is more a reality of not looking after yourself. One of the major areas of pain in preachers is loneliness. The book deals with this before you have to deal with it. Also, too often “I wonder how much more effective our churches would be if we made the pastor’s spiritual health— not the pastor’s efficiency— our number one priority.”

Another strong area of the book is accountability. We all need this. It is better to be caught doing little sins than to be caught with major moral failure. You need someone to call you on the table before the table breaks. The chapter on seven lessons that are hard to learn is worth the price of the book. His idea of sleeping in, of going to bed earlier is great advice. I never thought about it, but it was an excellent insight. We all need to learn to run at a pace that is sustainable. Elders would be wise to watch this, wives would be too because falling in the middle of the race is never wise leadership. Every minister should read this book or one like it every few years.

Matthew Morine
"We don't forget that we are Christians. We forget that we are human and that one oversight alone can debilitate the potential of our future." 
(Wayne Cordeiro)

80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively. 33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family. 75 percent report they've had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry. 50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.

90 percent feel they're inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands. * 25 percent of pastors' wives see their husband's work schedule as a source of conflict. * Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members. * The clergy has the second-highest divorce rate among all professions. * 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse. * 56 percent of pastors' wives say that they have no close friends. * 45 percent of pastors' wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout. * 52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family's well-being and health. * 45.5 percent of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. * 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend."

Such are the statistics that Wayne Cordeiro quotes near the beginning of his book. Statistics which are both, simultaneously frightening and not surprising. Pastoral ministry is a privilege, honor, and a blessing, but it is also tough. It is demanding. And, unless ministers are wise and aware, it can destroy us, and our families.

Cordeiro himself came close to being destroyed by the ministry. His own journey through burnout, depression, and `leading on empty is the foundation of this book.

Cordeiro has produced a book that should be on the bookshelf of every seminary student and pastor. Knowing how to manage yourself and the demands of ministry are so important. Knowing what God has called you to do and to live intentionally in that calling; willing to delegate and assign tasks that others can do and when to take time out, and away, to be with God and to seek him. What are your priorities in the limited hours of a day and how you must make time for family and yourself?

There is some wonderful wisdom in this book; wisdom we as ministers should chew on:

"A leader's greatest asset is not necessarily time. It is energy. A person with energy can accomplish more in four hours than another would in four days."

"[My] Number One [priority] Is My Daily Devotions."

"Steward your energy well, and in seasons of dismay, you will still have enough of a reservoir to lead."

"Healthy marriages require intentionality and planned investment. So will your waistline, your family, your ministry, your faith, and your emotional health. The Scriptures exhort us to "run in such a way that you may win." (1 Corinthians 9:24) It is not automatic."

I thoroughly recommend this work. 

A. Morgan
Solitude is a chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the first. 
Lead out of Rest. 
(Wayne Cordeiro)


Wayne Cordeiro is the senior pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii, one of the most beloved churches. Pioneered by Wayne Cordeiro in 1995, it has grown to over 12,000 in weekend attendance with over 80% of the attendees being first-time Christians. New Hope has recently planted 24 satellite churches in Honolulu. Wayne is an author, songwriter, and highly sought after conference speaker. His books include Doing Church as a Team, Attitudes that Attract Success, Dream Releasers, Seven Rules of Success, Rising Above, Leading on Empty, Divine Mentor, Irresistible Church, Sifted, and Jesus-Pure and Simple. His speaking takes him around the world. He is a church planter and leadership trainer at heart and has planted over 134 churches in the Pacific Rim and around the world. Wayne is also the author of the Life Journal used by thousands of churches. He is the chancellor of New Hope Christian College with campuses in Honolulu, Oregon, Tokyo, and Myanmar. He and his wife, Anna, have three children and six grandchildren. They live in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Link to Other Book Reviews:
Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (by Henry and Richard Blackaby; Claude King)

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