Mad Church Disease – Chapter 10 – Relational Health

We’ve made it to Chapter 10 of our discussion of Anne Jackson’s book, Mad Church Disease, and my co-moderator (Jason) and I certainly hope you’re getting as much out of the discussion as we are. We hope that even if you haven’t read the book, that you feel free to share in the discussion and that you’re walking away with something you can think about.

This week’s discussion is on Relational Health and although the chapter is much broader than what I’m covering in this thousand-or-so words, I’d like to subtitle my post “Constructive Relationships Versus Destructive Relationships.”

Relationships, like everything else in life, require balance to be healthy. I can honestly say, however, that balancing relationships is something I’ve really had to work at in my life. As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of lady. If I like a song, I want to hear it over and over. If I like a TV show, I will watch it devotedly every time it’s on. If I believe in a cause, I will fight for it to the death. And if I like a person, I really love them and want to spend time with them.

Loving your friends is usually a good thing, right? Jesus says that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend, right?

But He didn’t say to make your friends idols ahead of God. And in the past, that’s something that I did. A lot. Still can if I’m not careful.

Something that Anne Jackson points out in this chapter is that when we’re burned out, our relationships have a tendency to suffer because we no longer have strength to maintain the balance. Plus, Satan knows that we’re vulnerable here and is quick to tempt us here.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve seen at least one example of when I got out of balance. Let me share with you another example:

A pastor named Gary had been married to Beth for several years. To their friends and their church, their marriage seemed pretty solid. In fact, if you had asked Beth, she would have told you that the marriage was pretty solid. Only those big city preachers have marital problems, right?

Even though their church was a small, country one, the people had a lot of needs. There were a lot of elderly folks in their church and it seemed like Gary was always running back and forth between hospitals and rest homes. Beth stayed home and homeschooled their twins—a son and a daughter who were about six years old.

Gary never really realized he was burning out. But if you’d asked his secretary, Claudia, she could have told you. He would often come in and sit across from her desk with a cup of coffee, venting about what Deacon So-and-So had done or grumbling about what Sister What’s-her-Name had stirred up in the choir. He was tired of this and sick of that and worried about a variety of other things. And after a number of months, she noticed that the pastor would share about things his wife had done that had annoyed him or even an argument that they’d had. Claudia could sympathize. Her husband, Rodney, was no prince either. In fact, she was pretty sure that he was having an affair that he was calling “business trips.” She had taken her two boys and left him six months before to move back in with her sister.

Within two years, Claudia and Rodney had divorced, Gary and Beth had divorced, and Gary and Claudia were married to each other.

The consequences? Four devastated children. Two abandoned spouses. And a church that had been burned by its leadership.

In some ways, the chain reaction is simple. Tiredness, left unchecked leads to burnout. Burnout, left untreated leads to wounded relationships. Wounded relationships, left unhealed lead to broken relationships, broken testimonies, and broken hearts. But when you’re on the inside, it’s not so simple to see or to remedy.

When I was in college, I was blessed to have some very constructive relationships. I had a small, tight circle of friends who gave sacrificially of themselves to build me up. Chris, Eliza, Robert, and Rick. And they taught me some things about relationships that have revolutionized the way I conduct my relationships—though I’m admittedly still working on it. The most important thing they taught me was that when anyone comes into my life, I should ask God what my purpose is in their life. Because honestly, boys and girls, some people are destructive. And the right person at the wrong time, is the wrong person. (Did that make as much sense written out as it did in my head? If not, let me know and I’ll try to explain it.)

The other piece of advice that has revolutionized my relationships is a piece of advice that I received from my old evangelist friend, John Hobbs, many years ago. He said, “When your relationship with Jesus is right, all of your other relationships will line up with Him.”

Do you have trouble keeping your relationships balanced? What are some examples of destructive and constructive relationships in your life? What do you find helps you to keep your relationships healthy?

About Sarah Salter


  1. I still find hearing of any divorce breaks my heart. I guess I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic that way. I long for couples to get back together. If I feel that way and I’m only human, I often wonder how God feels.

  2. I’ve never thought of asking God the purpose of my meeting someone new when they are brought into my life. I’ve often wondered what the Lord had planned in bringing me together with a person, but I’ve never thought to ask Him about it. Reading your post was a wake up call I very much needed. Thanks, Sarah.

  3. The story you shared is such a sad one. Like you said, many were devastated in the wake of these decisions. I know it’s not uncommon, but it’s still good to know it’s preventable if we take proper steps. God gives us a plan of escape if we’ll listen!

    Reminds me of 1 Peter 5:8 this morning, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We just have to pay attention. It’s too important.

    I like what you said too about asking what your purpose is for someone you meet. That’s a great way to look at it! Thanks Sarah.

  4. Thanks for sharing the story Sarah, and for a great post on Ch 10.

    I too like what you said about asking what the purpose. Makes me think about this book club, and blogging as a whole. We have such a great opportunity to be encouraging and life-giving for each other, even in an online setting. Thank you again for hosting these sessions with Jason.

    You asked what helps me keep relationships healthy, and I think it all starts with intentionality. Being intentional will keep things balanced on Christ and the gospel. It goes along with asking what the purpose is, and defining the intentions up front.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Denise, I have a braided silver ring that I used to wear when my hands were smaller. I had a pastor once who pointed at my ring and said, “Divorce would be like trying to rip those braided pieces apart now that they’re forged together. It can be done, but it’s going to destroy the whole thing.” That also reminds me of the scene in Fireproof (which you totally should see if you haven’t yet) where the guy glues a plastic saltshaker & pepper shaker together to show how to get them apart, you have to break them. That’s exactly what divorce does. People get real caught up over whether divorce is sin or not… But for a moment, let’s put that question aside and ask a different one… Why would you want to do that to yourself or anyone else and put them through that pain?

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Sharon, I was given that advice during a time when I was making some very foolish decisions about who I was going to spend my time with. Thank goodness that I had CONSTRUCTive friends who pointed me to several good scriptures that showed me that its as simple as asking God and keeping my priorities in order. Two scriptures that really helped me? Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed is the man that trusts in the arm of flesh…” And James 1:5 says, “If any man lacks wisdom, ask God and He’ll give it to you without being angry that you asked.” (That’s my paraphrase, by the way.)

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, the saddest part is that it’s a true story and that it’s not the only instance of this kind of heart break…

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Ryan, thank you for being a part of the discussion! It’s been great getting to know you and I hope you’ll come back and visit once we’re done with the discussion. You are always welcome here! “Intentionality.” I love that! Great word! It’s a word of determination and commitment. Great word! Thanks!

  9. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of lady too Sarah and I put my all into my relationships which leads me to be hurt sometimes because the other person wasn’t putting their all into me. This time around it’s going much better because I try to put myself in Tim’s place and see how I would want things if I were him and he does the same for me most the time. Nobody is perfect though…I’m still working on it 🙂

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