A Soul Under Siege: The Story of C. Welton Gaddy for Greater Pastoral Health

A Soul Under Siege is a pastor’s story on how to survive depression and burnout within ministry, it’s a pragmatic guide that deals with real problems and temptations within ministry. C. Welton Gaddy, using his impressive resume as the backdrop, gives powerful details on how to not fail at ministry, especially the kind of failure that is caused by burnout. That isn’t to say that burnout is a form of failure or that it leads to failure, but that failure is a feeling many clergy have when they don’t meet the expectations placed, theirs or someone else’s, in ministry. There’s an unfortunate standard in ministry that is not often discussed: perfection. The standard of perfection often comes in the form of words, but it also comes in the form of drive, we do, the more we produce, the more successful we are. I fail to see that standard anywhere in the New Testament, and this is something that Gaddy alludes to. “As long as the church is doing well institutionally -- good attendance, attractive programs, adequate offerings, new members to report – there is no need to address the hell that ministerial staff members are experiencing personally.”

Gaddy was on the fast track to be a rising star within many Baptist circles. He was writing, editing, traveling, speaking, preaching, teaching, and interviewing, more than his schedule allowed. His continual pursuit of more would later almost result in the eventual near demise of his marriage as well as any and every prospect for ministry, as his diagnosed clinical depression worsened with each and every obligation and responsibility. This is a powerful illustration of the previously mentioned, “vocational burnout,” a detrimental outcome of a lack of work-related boundaries. There’s a difficulty in distinguishing between what is enough and what is too much while doing holy work, as many pastors feel a moral and spiritual obligation to do so because it’s, “the Lord’s work,” or because, “they don’t want people to go to hell,” but C. Welton Gaddy nails it on the head: “Drivenness can look just like holiness, even when the two are totally unrelated.” Busyness is the antithesis of ambition. It is good to be ambitious, to want to accomplish a lot for the kingdom of God, but busyness as a way to accomplish ambition is not helpful as busyness implies multiple motivations.

The multiple motivations in ministry can be:

  • Words of affirmation from parishioners

  • Celebrity status or notoriety within a certain community of faith

  • Fear of failure, or fear of perceived failure

“Multiple motivations undergird almost all of people's actions.” When we are busy, we’re paying credence to a multiplicity of gods, so you could say that in effect busyness = idolatry.

C. Welton Gaddy encourages pastors to take some precautionary steps to avoid the executive authority trap of “more is a good thing:”

  • Minister’s need a minister—Get help before you need help, alleviate the likelihood of a relational vacuum and grow friendships too

  • Honest confession is helpful—Be honest about your present reality and what you’re capable of

  • Remind yourself that your job is always interim—This increases humility in reminding us of our dispensability

These tips are helpful to pastors to create boundaries within ministry and to not fall into the trap of pursuing perfection because perfection is not attainable. A desired outcome by Gaddy is that pastors would learn to operate under grace, that God is capable of accomplishing a lot with our little. An important reality for us to consider would be for us to come to the realization that God doesn’t actually need us, specifically us, to accomplish His work, but the sheer fact of Him using us is an act of grace.