Mad Church Disease (book review)

Read this book and save your life.


I have seen far too many good people get burned-out in the most unlikely place. The one place where you would expect wholeness and vitality and safety and health: Church! In Mad Church Disease Anne Jackson draws the comparison to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (better known as mad cow disease) to confront mad church disease head-on.

Here’s the insidious thing about the way mad cow disease spreads: after infected cows die, they are ground up and fed to healthy cows. So unwittingly the disease is perpetuated because no one recognizes it’s there. Sadly that’s what happens far too often in the church. We have developed cultures that continue to burn-out people, and then we let those burned-out people feed (develop) new people

Anne shines the light of truth on this ugly disease. She confronts the symptoms head-on, and offers practical steps for helping people get healthy.

As someone who came very close to getting burned-out by mad church disease, I can attest how right-on-the-mark Anne’s book is. And to bolster her diagnosis, Anne interviews several leading pastors whose “second opinion” confirm the original diagnosis. I liked this observation from Bill Hybels:

“Especially as leaders in the church, we consistently need to be filled up and buoyed in our spirits because everybody takes their cue from the leader. If the leader is exhausted, then the people following that leader will feel exhausted. If the leader is wearing thin on hope, then people start losing hope too. If the leader gets pessimistic, everybody gets pessimistic.”

So who should read Mad Church Disease?

  • Pastors
  • Paid church staff
  • Volunteer church ministers
  • Counselors
  • Church board members

Whether you have been infected by mad church disease or not, you need to read this book. It will either be a source of healing for you, or an eye-opener to help protect yourself and others around you from this deadly disease.

The first step to eliminating mad church disease is recognizing its symptoms. Mad Church Disease does just that, and then goes further to talk about the steps for healing. Thanks, Anne, for a straightforward look at this serious disease.

4 Responses to “Mad Church Disease (book review)”

  1. A. Amos Love Says:

    Is it possible the reason “Burnout” is such
    a problem for today’s “Pastor/Leader” is
    they have found themselves with a
    “Title” and “Position” NOT found in the Bible?

    Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
    Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
    Any congregations “led” by a “pastor” in the Bible?

    And every “pastor” I’ve met also had
    the “Title” “Reverend.”

    Does anyone have the “Title” Reverend in the Bible?

    In my experience…

    Titles become Idols.
    Pastors become Masters.

    Heavy weights on shoulders NOT easy to lay down.

    Jesus taught “His Disciples”
    NOT to be called “Master/Leader”
    For you have “ONE” “Master/Leader” The Christ.
    Mat 23:8-10 KJV

    Ezekiel 14:1-7, speaks about “Idols of the Heart,”
    and now God will speak to us according to
    the “Idols of our Heart.”

    And other sheep I have,
    which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring,
    and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold,
    and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.


    • Craig T. Owens Says:


      The “gift” of a pastor is given in Ephesians 4:11, where Paul lists several gifts that Jesus gave to help build up His church. The word here for pastor is better translated “shepherd.”

      Peter uses the same word when he writes, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve” (1 Peter 5:2).

      I agree that many have not handled their title/position well. But that should not cast dispersions on all who seek to serve as shepherd-pastors. Not to lord it over someone, but to tenderly care for them.


  2. A. Amos Love Says:


    Thanks for the response.

    You write…
    “The “gift” of a pastor is given in Ephesians 4:11.”

    That’s what I was taught and believed when I desired to be a pastor.

    I, Amos Love, would be a “gift” to the body of Christ.
    I, Amos Love, would be someone special.
    I’m sure you can already recognize MY wonderfulness. Yes? 😉

    Hmmm? That just doesn’t sound right anymore.

    If I think of myself as a “gift” to the body of Christ wouldn’t that be
    revealing an exaggerated sense of MY own importance and abilities?
    Wouldn’t that be revealing MY “Arrogance?”

    Isn’t Jesus to be our example? NOT man?
    Jesus humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation,
    took on the form of a servant. Yes? Phil 2:7-8

    I no longer believe those “gifts” of Eph 4:8,
    refer to a mere sinful human like me.

    When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive,
    and gave “gifts” unto men.
    Eph 4:8

    These “gifts,” given to men, could refer to other “gifts” given.

    There is the “gift” of salvation, the “gift” eternal life, The “Gift” of God.

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
    it is **the “gift” of God:**
    Eph 2:8

    For the wages of sin is death; but **the “gift” of God**
    is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    Rom 6:23

    Then there are Spiritual “gifts” given to all to profit all.

    Now concerning “spiritual gifts,” brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
    1Cor 12:1

    Or, the “gifts” given unto men could refer to the “gift” of Christ in Eph 4:7, the previous verse.

    But unto every one of us is given grace according
    to the measure of **the “gift” of Christ.**
    Eph 4:7.

    And if you’re correct…
    And “pastors/leaders” (as we see them today) are a “gift” from God?
    He’s not taking very good care of His “pastors/leaders;” Is He?

    This is info from a website helping burned out Pastors.

    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • 38% are divorced or seriously considering divorce.
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.

    Here’s another site. This is serious business. Yes?

    # 80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    # 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now
    ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.
    # 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    # 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
    #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go
    the same direction and goal of the pastor.

    Think we might have a problem here?
    80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out.
    70% Don’t have a close friend. Hmmm?

    That’s who is running the show. “Pastors/Leaders?”
    77% who say they don’t have a good marriage. Hmmm?
    That’s who is “Spiritually Abusing” God’s sheep.

    Think there might be a problem with today’s “Pastors/Leader?”

    The unspoken things about “pastor burnout” is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Be blessed


    • Craig T. Owens Says:

      I’m not disagreeing with you that many in their pastoral role have abused others and/or themselves. But the same thing could be said about any profession from street-sweeper to the president of a country. That may be a whole different topic.

      But I do know of plenty of shepherd-pastors who have lovingly cared for me and helped me grow. And I do know that Ephesians 4 says that when Jesus ascended into heaven He gave gifts to the Body, and one of those gifts include the gift of a shepherd-pastor. The horrific statistics you point out don’t make me throw in the towel on this; they make me pray more frevently for those who have been given the incredibly heavy responsibility of serving as a shepherd-pastor.


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