Journal of Christian Ministry | Mad Church Disease – Book Review

Mad Church Disease – Book Review

Mad Church Disease – Book Review


Mad Church Disease:
Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic
Anne Jackson
Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 2009,
190 pages, $16.99, hardcover
Reviewed by Kenneth H. Mayton
Director, Doctor of Ministry Program
O.R.U. Graduate School of Theology and Ministry
Tulsa, Oklahoma

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What a title and how appropriate, Mad Church Disease - a title I wish I had thought of. Who can forget the Mad Cow disease epidemic of a few years ago when pictures of cattle carcasses were stacked in a heap for all to see nightly on the evening news. The author sees a parallel between mad cow disease and burnout in the church.
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In this short, easy-to-read work, the concerns about burnout in the church are crisply and accurately dealt with. The book has a workbook format and feeling. The book is colorful and contains many charts, illustrations and references.

Early in the volume the author makes the point of comparison between mad cow disease and mad church disease (burnout). The characteristics of mad cow disease are: The disease lies dormant for a given amount of time going unnoticed. It can be a period of months to a few years before the disease is found; it is caused by a mutated protein that attaches itself to the cow’s nervous system, thus affecting the cow’s brain and responses. The disease is transmitted by cows eating the suspect protein (from remains of other cattle); it ultimately leads to the infected cows’ death (pp 30-31). There is no cure. The remainder of this book addresses the subject of applying these characteristics to the church setting.

Who is Anne Jackson? Information from her website,, says, “She is an author, speaker and social change activist who lives in the Nashville, Tennessee area with her husband Chris…Her latest book, Permission to Speak Freely: Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace (Thomas Nelson), released in August 2010. Ann has traveled around the world telling the stories of hope found in the least likely places.” She is a speaker advocate for Compassion International.

On the back cover is given an underlying key reason why this book was written: Ann knows the struggle with and the effects of burnout. As a pastor’s daughter she saw firsthand the struggle leaders and their families have because of this “disease.” Years later, as a church leader, she was hospitalized because stress began wreaking havoc on her body. She had burned out.

A look at the structure of the book brings insight to its total focus on burnout. It is interesting that medical terms and concepts are used throughout staying with its theme of “disease.” Part 1: How the Burnout Epidemic Is Killing the Greatest Call; Part 2: Am I at Risk? Examining Risk Factors and Symptoms; Part 3: Getting Better; Part 4: A Path to Health and Recovery.