Immeasurable

It’s a confusing time to be a pastor. Of course, it’s always been hard, but in times past we had greater clarity about what a pastor is supposed to be and do. Now it seems that we’re supposed to have the leadership skills of a CEO and the charisma of a celebrity, along with a strong social media presence and a track record of impressive results. No wonder so many pastors feel a sense of inadequacy.

The books keep coming. They teach us how to lead better, to market more effectively, and to push our churches past growth barriers. If you can’t do it, I guarantee you there’s another pastor who will.

Skye Jethani wrote Immeasurable so that we’d hit the pause button. “I’ve written this book to challenge assumptions and provoke new ideas about what faithfulness in the age of Church, Inc. can look like,” he writes. “To do that, we must deconstruct some of the practices and values you may have uncritically assimilated into your vision of ministry and your identity as a pastor.”

Jethani’s written 24 essays on different areas of ministry: ambition, effectiveness, preaching, platform, consumerism, and more. Each essay aims to uproot falsehoods that have crept into our understanding of ministry, and to make room for a more life-giving vision. He concludes each chapter with reflection and application questions to help the reader apply what he’s written.

Be prepared to be provoked. Jethani pokes at our ambitions. He examines the very nature of ministry itself from Scripture, calling us to greater focus on God’s people rather than institutional advancement. He calls us to engage in prayer audits as well as financial ones. He examines our assumptions about preaching, and calls us to pastoral presence as the antidote to celebrity. He wants church to become less comfortable. He wants us to refuse to attend conferences that feature celebrity pastors who don’t exhibit godly character, biblical wisdom, or orthodox teaching. He wants pastors to read fewer but better books (mostly old ones). There’s nothing sacred to Jethani — except, that is, the pastoral calling that we’ve traded in for a mess of pottage.

Remarkably, Jethani manages to challenge without giving in to cynicism or negativity. A quote in the middle of the book helped me understand why. He once asked Dallas Willard, “When you look at how off track we are, do you ever just throw up your hands in despair?” Willard smiled and said, “Never.” “How can you not?” I asked. “You just spent two hours explaining everything that’s wrong with the church.” “Because,” he said, “I know Christ is the head of His church and He knows what He’s doing.” That captures Jethani’s posture: prophetic critique tinged with love and confidence that God loves his church.

I don’t agree with everything in this book. I’m still thinking through his understanding of Ephesians 4 and his chapters on preaching. I am, however, grateful for his challenge of the assumptions that seem to go unquestioned these days. I would encourage pastors who feel the tug of Church, Inc. to read this book and to use it as a way to return to what ministry’s supposed to be.

Jethani concludes:

To be a pastor is to represent the presence of God, who is present with others. It is to see people—full, embodied, messy, sinful, beautiful people—and to see them the way Jesus does, as creatures of unsurpassable worth. To be a pastor is to freely give what we possess, which is nothing the world values and yet is the most valuable thing in all the world. The world values what is useful, which is what Church, Inc. tries to provide, but all we have is Jesus. To be a pastor is to say, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.”

Indeed.

Get this book. Read it every time you start to feel like CEO of Church, Inc. Let’s lose the shackles of what ministry’s become, and make room for a renaissance of what God calls pastors to be.

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