When I heard about a book coming out by Anne Jackson called Mad Church Disease...I was sure I wouldn't like it. I figured it was another one of those writings about the evils of organized religion and large churches, and how big, bad pastors treat their staff like dirt and their people like floor mats.
So, I was in a bit of a quandry when I received a request by the publisher (Zondervan) to consider adding my endorsement to the book. But I responded like I always do, "Feel free to send me a copy, but I'll only endorse it if I really like it."
Last summer the manuscript arrived in the mail, and I carved some time to read it on a long plane ride. I started reading and was instantly sucked in. By half way through I was finding it delightful, and before finishing I was convinced I would need to get a copy for all my staff some day. This book emphasizes balance and health. It focuses on self-care--not blaming others. It is well-written and easy to read.
What really grabbed me was reading Anne's story. Yes, she is young, but has a wealth of history and wisdom that comes from serving in a church, but first from growing up in a pastor's home. And when I had a chance to meet her in October, I found her to be the real deal.
Recently I had a chance to ask Anne, "What were some of your thoughts about God or the church that came from watching some of the junk your dad went through as a pastor?"
The first time I was exposed to the “junk,” I was in elementary school – third or fourth grade I think – and although I couldn’t really comprehend the spirituality behind what was happening, I knew something had happened that made my dad go from a very involved, relational father to a very depressed, isolated man (who I didn’t recognize). I ended up spying on one of his deacons meetings, because it always seemed that he was the most emotional following those.
What I saw angered me and gnawed at me...even though I was so young. These people who led in our church (and who I thought were family friends) were all fighting with my dad and with each other. They would lie. They would yell. They would spread rumors.
It wasn’t until I was older, about sixteen, when I started projecting the actions of these people on God. How could He be in charge and love the church the way He said he did when all these people did were fight and be hypocritical. I challenged him to show me something different or give me a way to change it, but I didn’t get an answer until almost six years later.
After my dad left the ministry altogether, we uprooted our family and moved. Seeing my parents in such a desperate emotional and financial state hurt so badly...so I began medicating the pain with prescription drugs, alcohol, and inappropriate relationships.
Even now, over a decade later, it’s still so hard for me to trust people in church leadership (because I had learned everyone puts on a front) and to not get cynical when Christians do stupid things. Don’t get me wrong...I mean, I do stupid things all the time that don’t bring glory to God. I am in no position to judge anyone...but it’s entirely too easy.
Lots of pastors ask me what I wish my parents would have done differently and my answer has always been this:
I don’t wish they would have protected me more. In fact, I wish I would have been able to see more. Do these experiences make me a little more cynical or realistic? Sure they do...but they also stir a HUGE passion in me to do everything I can to help bring unity to the church...to help people in the Christian faith remember that we will be known by our love for each other. If I wouldn’t have seen all the hate and hypocrisy, I don’t think those desires would be there.
So my advice to those of you serving in ministry with children? Let them see it. It may be ugly and painful, but that’s only going to allow them the opportunity to hope for and see redemption so much more clearly.
I love Anne's heart. I know you will grow to love her as well through reading her story and advice in Mad Church Disease. It releases in less than two weeks -- so preorder it today!