Book Review by Michael Goforth II:
Sorrow, laughter, anger, joy. . . .it seemed as if I experienced the entire range of human emotions as I listened to this group of faithful shepherds relive the highs and lows of their time in ministry. And as a young pastor, I felt like this book was written directly to me.
Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime is edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robison Sr. It is a collection of essays from veteran pastors including Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, Bryan Chappell and more. Each chapter begins with a fictional letter that highlights a very real struggle of pastoral ministry. The experienced pastor responds with wisdom and encouragement from the Scriptures to press on.
The book covers a wide variety of topics with chapters like, “Is It Time for Me to Go?” “My Critics Are a Burden for My Wife,” and “How Am I Going to Make It Financially?” Other topics include preaching, suffering, criticism, doubt, and more.
At the end of the book, the reader will be delighted to find a treasure chest of gold as Robinson interviews John MacArthur, who just marked his fiftieth anniversary as pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Talk about faithful endurance!
I don’t normally do this, but since the book did not require a strict chronological reading, I read the introduction and then skipped to the chapter that interested me most. It was chapter 8 with the title, “Does Staying in a Small Rural Church Make Me a Failure?”
Since I’m currently pastoring in a town of only 600 people, I know the answer to that question is no, but I was eager to hear Mark McCullough’s perspective. His words warmed my heart as he reminded me again of the, “irrepressible joy found in knowing God and being known by him.”
From there, I read the book cover to cover and I found help on every page. Even the chapters that I thought would not apply to me were profoundly practical. However, there was one chapter that stood out from the rest.
It was chapter 9 entitled, “I’m Feeling Tired, Worn Out, and in Need of a Break,” by John Starke. The title didn’t really resonate with me, but I read on. And I was shocked by what I found. In fact, I would argue that this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Starke asks the question, “If God rested even though he wasn’t tired, and if he asks his image bearers to rest like he rested, do you think maybe there’s a deeper reason for rest than mere exhaustion?” He then unpacks the importance of Sabbath rest with statements like, “To be in a hurry, always busy, never resting is a compulsive grasping for things we were never meant to possess or control.” Again, this chapter alone is worth buying the book.
If I had to offer one critique, I would suggest an entire chapter on identity. Far too many pastors look to their work for identity instead of looking to the Person and work of Christ. This was a huge struggle for me when I started the church I’m currently pastoring, and I was not prepared for it. While this topic is certainly addressed throughout the book, I believe it is one that warrants its own chapter.
Overall, I loved this book and I would highly recommend it. I’m so thankful the Lord led me to it at such an early stage in my ministry and I will revisit its pages regularly in the years ahead.
It has often been said that God doesn’t call us to be famous, He just calls us to be faithful. And I believe this book will help pastors do just that.
So read the book, be encouraged, and “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. To learn more about this book or purchase a copy from Crossway's website, click here.