I’ve lost track of how many times The Imperfect Pastor says something like this:
Pause here for a moment. Slow down if you can.
Pause here. Read that last sentence again if you need to. Prayerfully slow down for this.
Take note of this if you can…Mark this down.
Each time, it really is worth slowing down and rereading what Zack Eswine has written. We are ordinary pastors, and Eswine understands what we need to know, which makes this no ordinary book.
The Heart of a Pastor
I’m spending a year, along with others, reading books on pastoring. I’ve pastored now for almost 28 years and have made more mistakes than I can count. I’ve learned many of the skills required to pastor, but have lots left to learn. The Imperfect Pastor isn’t a book about skills, though. It’s a book about the heart issues we must face if we’re going to pastor faithfully and well.
Eswine understands the pastor’s temptations. We want to do great things famously and fast. We want significance. Often, “the brokenness of people actually feels like an intrusion keeping us from getting our important work for God done.”
Eswine reminds us of the true nature of ministry. We’re not meant to be everywhere for everyone, fix everything, know everything, or get things done in a hurry. We should repent of even trying. Instead, we’re called to “do small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time with him.”
This is the second time I’ve read this book (the third if you count its predecessor Sensing Jesus). Each time I’ve read it I think: Eswine has been reading my mind or at least my mail. He knows me. He understands the temptations I face every day as a pastor. Even more, he knows what ministry is supposed to be. He alternates between confronting my wayward heart and comforting me with the gospel. He makes me long for the kind of ministry he describes in the pages of this book.
Here’s what I like about this book the most: its beauty. Eswine doesn’t write a dry treatise on ministry. He skillfully weaves story, self-disclosure, and biblical truth into a book that is as enjoyable to read as it is profound. I predict that The Imperfect Pastor will be read for decades to come not just for its message but for the skillful way that Eswine communicates that message.
A Practical Impractical Book
I’m convinced that the most practical books are the impractical ones. The books with five practical steps and four quick tips don’t offer much help. The books that get to the heart of an issue, that dip into profound truths, are the ones that make a practical difference.
The Imperfect Pastor is that kind of book. Eswine does get practical at times: he talks about how what he’s learned has shaped his own ministry, how we selects and trains new elders, and how he runs elders meetings. He tells stories. His aim, though, isn’t to give us into a list of steps to follow, but instead to invite us way to live and serve. This may be one of the most practical pastoring books you will read precisely because it isn’t all that practical.
I own two books, besides the Bible, that I’m committed to rereading regularly. This is one of them. If you are a pastor, you will benefit greatly from reading it. And then put a reminder in your calendar to pick it up every two years and read it again. Trust me.
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