I read quite a lot of books, and to be frank, there is a lot of mediocrity out there. I understand that reading and books is a very subjective activity and what is mediocre to one is wonderful to another and vice verser.
David Rohrer’s book, The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry is quite simply wonderful. For me it is the best book I have read this year, and in my humble opinion should be read by every single person in pastoral ministry, regardless of denomination or structure.
Rohrer tackles the issues of being in pastoral ministry with what I can only call a spirit enabled wisdom. He consistently hits the nail on the head. There is no condemnation in this book. There ARE, however, plenty of challenges. There is also a wonderful dose of encouragement.
Here is an example of both:
“We are often our own worst enemies when it comes to seeding things into our lives that destroy our confidence. The narcism that sends us looking for congregational affirmation also sows the seeds of self-doubt and insecurity. When these seeds begin to germinate, the sound of our own voice commands more of our attention than the voice of God. In the face of criticism, fatigue and failure, it is easy to forget that our ministry fits into the greater reality of God’s story. It is easy to forget that we do our work in response to God’s call in the name of Jesus. Instead of seeing ourselves as participants in the work of God by the mercy of God, we myopically fixate on all that we are not, all that we might have been and all that we should be. The abstractions of our fears displace the concrete reality of God’s love and grace, and like Elijah after his bout with the prophets of Baal, we are left with nothing but fatigue and the sinking feeling that we are alone.”
Much of the book revolves around the ministry lens of John the Baptist. Rohrer points out that the Baptist called for both personal renewal and institutional reform. He spoke into a religious world that was disconnected from authentic relationship with God. He addressed the emptiness of religious institutions that did little more than anesthetize people through empty ritual. He preached about the integration of faith and life.
Rohrer does a fantastic job of re-centering the pastor’s focus. Perhaps my favorite quote is towards the end of the book, when he says:
“We are not here to save the church. Our work is catalytic. Like a catalyst, it has value in that is fosters a reaction. Yet people will not remember what we said so much as they will remember what God did when we said it. Our delivery of the message has a shelf life. But if we don’t deliver it, who will? If we don’t take up the call God places on our hearts to invite people to consider truth that is bigger than themselves, then we miss out. We miss out on the incredible blessing and affirmation of participating in what God is doing.”
Maybe that Rohrer’s book hit me just where I needed to be hit. But my guess is that it would also hit the exact place for many in pastoral ministry.
I rarely say this – but this is a MUST READ.
Very highly recommended!