Ten years ago (January 1996) a woman at Peter Scazzero's church told him she was leaving. The conversation, as he remembers it, went like this: "'Pete . . . I'm leaving the church,' she summarized very calmly. 'I no longer respect your leadership.' "I was visibly shaken and didn't know what to say or do. I felt shamed, alone, and angry. "But she calmly continued, 'It's not that simple. You don't have the guts to lead--to confront the people who need to be confronted. You don't lead. You're too afraid that people will leave the church. You're too afraid of what they'll think about you.' "I was outraged. "'I'm getting to it!' I yelled defensively. 'I'm working on it.' (For the last two years, I really had been trying, but somehow still wasn't up to it.) "'Good for you, but I can't wait any more,' she replied. Ouch. That conversation would hurt from anyone when you've poured your heart and soul into building a church, right? But get this: the woman who wanted to leave because she didn't respect his leadership was his wife of nine years. Scazzero's book The Emotionally Healthy Church may not have been the best book I read in 2005, but it feels like the most important to my life. He knew that despite all the flurry of religious activity in his life, despite the growth of his church, and despite his ongoing spiritual checkups, he was suffering from lack of joy. But what seemed like a crisis -- his wife's desire to leave the church -- was the beginning of healing for him, for it forced Scazzero to look at the root issues and to see the link between emotional issues and discipleship. He describes it as exploring the part of the iceberg that is below the surface. Here is a bit of what he found in his inner journey. "Something is desperately wrong with most churches today. We have many people who are passionate for God and his work, yet who are unconnected to their own emotions or those around them. The combination is deadly, both for the church and the leader's personal life." "It is not possible for a Christian to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. For some reason, however, the vast majority of Christians today live as if the two concepts have no intersection. Our standards of what it means to be 'spiritual' totally bypass many glaring inconsistencies. We have learned to accept that: -You can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving spouse and parent at home. -You can function as a church board member or pastor and be unteachable, insecure, and defensive. -You can memorize entire books of the New Testament and still be unaware of your depression and anger, even displacing it on other people. -You can fast and pray a half-day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment. -You can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to compensate for a nagging sense of failure. -You can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality you are simply avoiding conflict, repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up. -You can be outwardly cooperative at church but unconsciously try to undercut or defeat your supervisor by coming habitually late, constantly forgetting meetings, withdrawing and become apathetic, or ignoring the real issue behind why you are hurt and angry." We've all been able to see this incongruency with others, haven't we? One of the most angry people I've ever met in my life is especially angry when he talks about the immature anger of others. One of the most toxic persons I've ever known is a therapist who probably has helped people in her office but leaves bodies along the road in her out-of-the-office life. But what this book does is help you (me!) look inward, rather than just nod in recognition of others. Scazzero focuses on these principles of emotionally healthy leaders and churches: (1) look beneath the iceberg; (2) break the power of the past; (3) live in brokenness and vulnerability; (4) receive the gift of limits; (5) embrace grieving and loss; and (6) make incarnation your model for loving well. Only the books with the greatest insight and impact get read a second time. But I'm already starting back through this one as we head into 2006.