If you’ve ever run out of gas while driving, you know it’s not a pleasant experience. Depending on where you ran out of gas, you may have found yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere. You may have walked several miles. You may have even resorted to hitchhiking. 

Assuming that your car was functioning properly, you had several warning signs alerting you that it was time for a fill up. In addition to the fuel gauge itself, another light probably illuminated when your tank was getting low. You may have also received messages informing you how many approximate miles you could travel before your tank would be empty. Yet, despite all of these warning signs, you still ran out of gas.

The past six months have been a long two years. At least, that’s the way it has felt for most of us! For pastors and ministry leaders in particular, the past six months have been exhausting. (Here are some reasons why.) If you serve in ministry, I know the struggles you’re facing. I know why you desperately need to be lifted up in prayer now more than ever. I know you’ve been burning the candle at both ends. 

And I know you can’t keep up this pace forever. Eventually, if you ignore the warning signs, you will run out of gas. It’s not a question of if, only a question of when.

And this is not only true for pastors and ministry leaders. It’s true for all of us.

If you feel like your tank is getting low, here are five books that have helped me. I pray these will be helpful for you as well.

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

This is a short book written for all Christians (not just ministers) about our tendency to be busy. In it, DeYoung provides a simple outline. First, he begins with three dangers to avoid. Next, he spends the majority of the book discussing seven practical diagnoses to consider. Finally, he concludes with one thing you must do to restore order to your life. (Hint: Read the Word and pray!) If you’re looking for a quick read, start with Crazy Busy.

Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.

Kevin deYoung

The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry

This is another short book, and it encourages readers to recover the ability to hit pause in a world that never stops. Similar to DeYoung’s book, this work is written for all Christians, and not just pastors. In it, Pastor Mabry reminds readers what the Bible teaches about rest, why rest is so important, and what rest means for our relationships. He concludes with tips on how to actually practice the art of rest. If you find it hard to find time to rest, you’ll definitely want to check this one out

Saying, ‘I’m too busy to rest’ is a bit like saying, ‘I need too much oxygen to exhale.’ It just doesn’t make sense.

adam mabry

Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash

This is another short book (can you notice a theme?). Although all will find it beneficial, it is written primarily to those who are serving in ministry. In Zeal Without Burnout, Ash begins by reminding readers of a neglected truth that we are creatures of dust. In other words, we are fragile, temporary, mortal, frail servants of the Lord. The remainder of the book discusses seven keys to sustainable ministry that flow out of this truth. Packed with Scripture and personal testimonies of those who have overcome burnout, this is another quick book for those who are running on empty.

God is God and we are dust.

Christopher Ash

Reset by David Murray

In this practical resource written not only for pastors, but for men in general, Murray begins by sharing some of his own struggles with burnout. He then discusses ten “repair bays” to help readers evaluate their level of burnout and provides practical solutions to refill the tank. This is a practical and accessible book for all those who feel like their tanks are getting low.

It’s not selfish to replenish energy and renew vitality in order to serve God and others better. As one of my friends reminded me, ‘Put your own oxygen mask on first, then you can help others.’

David murray

Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

This book is not for the faint of heart. In typical Tripp fashion, pastors are challenged to evaluate their motives for ministry and repent of sinful attitudes and behaviors that have contributed to their potential burnout. This book is broken down into three parts. First, Tripp examines the negative aspects of pastoral culture. Next, he discusses the danger of forgetting who God is. Finally, he explains the danger of forgetting who we are. With so much to process, I recommend that pastors read this book slowly, and take its warnings to heart. In a sad twist of irony, three of the five ministers who endorsed the book on the back cover of the first edition are no longer in ministry. All the more reason to take this book seriously. Pastoral ministry truly is a dangerous calling.

Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.

paul david tripp

These are difficult times. Unfortunately, many of us may be ignoring the warning signs that our tanks are getting dangerously low. If that describes you, I plead with you on behalf of your family and your church. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Take the time to refuel. In addition to prayer and personal Bible study, I hope one or more of these book recommendations will help.

P.S. I’m always looking for a good book to read. If you have a recommendation for another helpful book on this topic, leave a comment below to tell me and other readers about it!

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