My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Swenson’s argument is valid overall, yet flawed in some of its premise. He presents an excellent argument for the prescription and prognosis, but part of the problem has some disregard for the human condition.
Specifically, Swenson does lay blame on progress being the enemy and thief of margin. This is a generalization and oversight on his end, blaming a non-entity third party for the sufferings of humanity. He is correct with his argument that the world is presented with all it could want for the world to be utopia, but he fails to acknowledge the fallen nature of man and that this world is not the final destination (and yes, he shares biblical content in his book, so there is a right to hold this as an objection). It is respectful and appropriate that he does what he can to address the issue at large and bring resolution to restore margin, and he does so in his prescription. However, progress is not at fault – mankind’s laziness is.
Progress has allowed greater things to be done, but mankind has historically taken the easy way out and done more while accomplishing less. This procrastination, or busybody approach, is the true blame and thief of margin. Swenson’s arguments against progress are no good, because even before progress gained momentum, Adam and Eve still chose the easy way, following the Serpent instead of standing for what was right. Since then, mankind has made the same faults and failures, leading to today’s epidemic of stress. Progress has been an attempt to restore margin, not remove it, and has failed due to mankind refusing to change its nature. Swenson’s prognosis is a necessary part of the prescription.
Swenson’s argument for the character strengths of contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest are the exact attributes needed to counter the human condition. However, this is not something one can accomplish without the strength of the Messiah. Swenson quotes Philippians 4:13 as an argument that it is taken out of context and misapplied to be able to do everything, yet he fails to recognize that this is the core and basis of what needs to be utilized to overcome and restore margin. Instead of trying to do it all, one should try to live as G-d would desire them to, doing all things through Christ, not doing it all and citing Christ. Otherwise, Swenson presents good material to be used and prescribed.
In the larger academic context, this book can be quite useful. This book contributes to the field of pastoral ministry in many ways. Specifically, this book can be used by life coaches to help pastors keep margin in their own lives. Once a pastor has restored margin in their own life, it should be utilized through a strategic small group process, by the pastor meeting with their key leaders, and those leaders meeting with key groups, and so forth, until the concept has been utilized and implemented in all of the ministry positions in the church. At that point, the church can begin teaching on the material in corporate sessions and go in depth with reading in small group sessions that meet throughout the week. This book would also be a key asset for life coaches to use not only with pastors, but with clients in general.
Disclosure: I have received a reviewer copy and/or payment in exchange for an honest review of the product mentioned in this post.