Zack Eswine. The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pp. $16.99
I do not think it is an overstatement to say that Zack Eswine’s latest book, The Imperfect Pastor, is one of the most important books that a young seminarian or pastor could read. It is with candid honesty that Eswine discusses the difficulties of the pastoral ministry and the temptations a celebrity mentality can bring in the vocation. The Imperfect Pastor is divided into 4 parts: (1) the calling pastors pursue, (2) the temptations pastors face, (3) the importance of reshaping the inner life, and (4) reshaping the work pastors do.
The Imperfect Pastor is essentially about rediscovering the creaturely nature of pastoral ministry. As Eswine notes, “A pastor is a human being. I believe that Christian life and ministry are an apprenticeship with Jesus toward recovering our humanity through his Spirit, helping our neighbors do the same” (35). Pastors must recognize their limitations and finitude, and rely fully on their sufficient Savior.
What makes this book so unique is the fact Eswine interweaves his personal life and struggles through almost every chapter. Eswine writes clearly and humbly. He continually reminds pastors that most of the time we are called to serve in mundane places where we might not be noticed. Nevertheless, that should be fine with us because we still serve an extraordinary Savior who loves us immensely. Even when we are engaged in monotonous, everyday tasks, we can trust that God is still working. As Eswine rightly points out, “What if the joy we desire in Jesus is like hidden treasure in a field that many people, even in ministry, overlook and rarely buy” (31)? Satisfaction in ministry must be found in our unshakeable hope.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
In all honesty, The Imperfect Pastor’s subtitle could be, “Pastor, you can’t do it all, and that’s ok.” Over and over again, Zack Eswine discusses the importance of pastors recognizing their limitations. Eswine believes that to truly be effective in ministry, pastors must embrace their finitude. I completely agree with him on this point.
Throughout the book, Eswine continually comes off as a seasoned veteran. You can easily tell that he has been there and done that. He knows the temptations that the pastoral ministry can bring, and that is why it is so easy to relate to him.
The Imperfect Pastor is such an important book because it provides an in-depth look at what pastoral ministry is really like. Zack Eswine does not shy away from talking about the hardships that come with ministering in this world. People are broken and complicated, and need to be met with the liberating message of Jesus Christ. However, for pastors to truly be able to show people the loving message of God they must first be willing to be trained under the Master. We must sit under Jesus and learn directly from him if we expect to find true freedom in the ministry. Pastors need this book because it teaches us to trust in Jesus above all other things. The Imperfect Pastor is a brutally honest book that gives you a clear view of the behind the scenes life of a pastor.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
The Imperfect Pastor calls for pastors to embrace their finitude, and find their sufficiency fully in Christ Jesus.