The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine. This book is by far one of the most honest pastoral ministry books I have ever read (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp would be another one of those). In this book Eswine helps pastors see that despite what the “celebrating pastor” culture is telling them, pastoral ministry is more about walking with Jesus and serving Him in the local context He has placed you in. Throughout this book Eswine uses the example of Jesus to show what pastoral work looks like. From this approach it’s easy to see that our current model of pastoral work doesn’t always match up with what Jesus had in mind. This book was refreshing for someone like me who during college and seminary was influenced heavily by what we may call “celebrating pastors.” Reading and listening to guys like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick often times left the impression that if I didn’t serve at a big church or had as much influence as them I was a failure in ministry. At times it feels like I came out of college and seminary more prepared to climb the “ministry ladder” rather than serve Jesus daily in pastoral work in whatever context He put me in. This book helped me leave some of that baggage behind and focus on what really matters, which is following Jesus daily and serving Him daily in the church context He has placed me. I would highly recommend this book to pastors, especially younger guys in pastoral ministry.
Vertical Church by James McDonald. This is a book that had been on my list to read for quite some time. I decided to grab it and give it a read after hearing both good and bad things about it. In this book McDonald argues that churches should be “vertical.” By that he means that churches, particularly in their weekly worship services, should be about the glory of God and helping people experience that glory. The bottom line seems to be that churches should be more about God’s glory and not cultural relevance or anything else that drives churches and directs what they do. The first half of the book deals more with a Biblical basis for the “vertical church” model and the second half is more practical in that it explains how a church can be “vertical.” In the second half of the book, McDonald goes through several pillars of a vertical church – unashamed adoration, unapologetic preaching, unafraid witness, and increasing prayer. Overall I enjoyed this book. However, there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me. First, McDonald seems to have a “my way or the highway” approach. This makes sense when you realize McDonald argues that the “vertical church” model is Biblical. He has a deep and strong conviction of that, which leads to his dogmatic tone. But at times it came across a bit much. Second, his chapter on worship (unashamed adoration) seemed to make the case that expression in worship is the end goal and when one lacks expression in worship they lack true worship. I like his heart behind this chapter – that true worship seems to show itself in expression (we see that in the Bible, especially in Psalms). But true worship (which we need to be careful not to just consider singing in church as worship, worship extends beyond just singing), doesn’t always show itself in outward expression. Tim Challies shares more about the weakness and danger in this chapter as well as some other chapters in this book in his review.
When Trouble Comes by Phil Ryken. I read this book in preparation for a series I did with our students called “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.” This book not only gave me some nuggets for that series but also helped me understand how to respond when troubles comes into my own life. This book works off the premise that trouble is a part of our lives in this fallen world. Life is tough and trouble comes our way more than we would like. In this book, Ryken uses various Biblical characters and their troubles to show us how we can walk with God when those kinds of troubles come at us. Each chapter is very practical and easily to apply to your life, especially if you’re going through the same type of trouble that Biblical character is going through. This is an easy read that I would recommend to everyone.
Two others books I recently read that I chose not to review were Culture Making by Andy Crouch and Excellent Preaching by Criag Bartholomew.
As of last Friday I “officially” finished my pastoral internship at Weymouth Community Church. This internship was the last thing I had to do to complete my degree from Piedmont Baptist College (soon to be Piedmont International University). As many of you know this was the second of two internships I had to complete for school. I did a youth ministry internship this past summer (you can read all about that internship in another post) and then came to Medina, OH to do this internship which was a pastoral internship. I wanted to take some time and share with you what I have done and learned during this pastoral internship.
I was able to do some much during this internship that it is hard to even recall so I will hit the highlights. First, I was able to attend a few days of meetings at Life Action Revival Ministries headquarters in Michigan along with the lead pastor Dan Jarvis. Dan and Life Action are launching a nation wide movement that is a call for revival called OneCry. I was able to meet other pastors and church leaders from across the country and help them organize this movement. Second, I have had the opportunity to preach several times. I preached three times in the local jail, a few times in some local retirement homes, and several times in Sunday morning services here at Weymouth as well as at the south campus. You can listen to two of the sermons I preached here by going to my “preaching” page here on my blog. By far preaching has been my favorite thing from this internship and it has helped me become a better preacher of God’s Word. Third, I have been leading a Wednesday night teen guys Bible study. We started doing a study called Habits which deals with spiritual disciplines and now we are going to start walking through a few key chapters in the Bible for the next few weeks. This has been a great opportunity for me to practice youth ministry while doing this pastoral internship. I was able to build good relationships with the guys and influence them for Christ. Fourth, I was able to go out visiting with the Care Pastor John Lurtz. This part of the internship has been the most rewarding thing because it allowed me to see that pastoral ministry is about people and building relationships with the people of your church. I was able to visit a man named Bill Mueller a few times who is dying of cancer. Bill is 80 years old and has served in pastoral ministry for 60 years! It was a privilege and an honor to sit with him and hear him talk about his years serving the Lord within the local church. This man has been faithful for so many years and it was an honor to spend time with him. Pray for him and his wife as he is coming to the end of his life. These are just a few of the many things I was able to do during this internship.
Now for the important part, what did I learn during this internship. With each internship I try to think back about the one major things I have learned. In my last internship I learned that you had to build relationships with people in order to teach them God’s Word better. You can about that here. I learned something similar in this internship as well. During this internship I learned this: ministry is about people. If a pastor spends all his time in the office and behind his computer he will miss the rewards of ministry which come from being with the people. I am not saying a pastor should neglect his time praying and studying God’s Word for preaching because that is his main responsibilities, but in order to lead the people you have to spend time with the people. I have learned this and pray that as I step out into full-time ministry God will help me remember ministry is about people.
You may be wondering what is next for me. I’m glad you asked! I am staying here at Weymouth as a pastoral intern until December 11th then will be headed back to NC for a few weeks for Christmas. By the way, I will be speaking at The Grove on December 14th so stop by and see me! I am completely done with my degree from PBC so I am able to start working full-time whenever God opens a door. I am using this time to make connects as well as send my resume out to as many churches as possible. Pray for me as I wait and trust God to give me my first full-time ministry job. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and has supported me throughout this internship.