“Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor” Book Review

Confessions of an Insignificant PastorWho sets the image of what is ‘normal’ in a Christian’s life and experience? Where does the place of transparency reside in a Christian’s life when our culture promotes accomplishment, size and performance? Pastor W. Mark Elliot, in his recent book Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor confronts the image of what too often is the ‘rugged individualist’ Christian persona. In its place, he reveals a transparent, genuine, real “pastor from nowhere, just a nobody from zip code 47492,” and he’s in good company.

I spoke with Pastor Mark. He said this book came out of a sensed call to put the message on paper. In a few days, alone on personal retreat, Mark recorded the lessons which had been birthed out of a “winter season of pastoring. It’s a negative title on a positive book.” When I asked him to identify the most important take-away, Pastor Mark replied, “Unplanned is a part of life. God call isn’t to achievement, but to faithfulness. After 28 years of ministry, my best accomplishment is that I have been faithful, I refuse to quit. I have found that God is still present in all of life’s circumstances.”

The book’s 16 chapters flesh out the image of a transparent man. Starting with “ I’m a Nobody from 47492”, to “I Work too Much” and “People Get on my Last Nerve” Pastor Mark openly shares his heart. Life is hard at times. We are all human, and walking through life as a Christian doesn’t mean the valleys will be filled in and steep hills leveled before we arrive. The climb (up or down) is taxing. Mark’s message is that our God goes with us, and we are not meant to walk alone.

The book is well researched, and Pastor Mark correlates a modern Christian’s similarity to men / women of the Bible. David was a nobody before he was king. Joseph was an arrogant teen, Jacob a manipulative entrepreneur, Moses a murderer, and the list goes on. The key, Mark writes, is that we begin to see ourselves the way God really does. We have value because we are his people, and we are meant to do life together rather than (pretending to) be a rugged individualist.

Each chapter ends with 3-5 questions meant to prompt discussion and reflection. The book, like life, is better when it’s shared. These questions flow well into discussions for small groups, and explore how we can become more genuine, authentic Christ followers.

I recommend this book highly. Too often we allow an image painted of what a Christian ‘should’ look like when the only real answer is this. A Christ follower should look like the One he or she is following. The lessons in this book will move the reader toward becoming genuine, transparent, authentic and real in their faith. There is a risk involved in this kind of lifestyle, but the alternative is to exist without really living.

by: Timothy Burns

Now Blogging for NavPress and Tyndale

Editor Timothy Burns is now blogging and reviewing new releases for Tyndale House and Navpress Publishers.

How Can I Run a Tight Ship Book Review

tight shipReleased early 2009 by New Hope Publishers, Kathi Macias’ How Can I Run a Tight Ship when I am Surrounded by Loose Cannons? is a light hearted look at discipleship from an experienced Christian writer. During our interview, Kathi described the book as “discipleship with a grin.” As I easily consumed the book’s message, I would have to agree. Like Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar, the sometimes thick discipleship message is a joyful read in this book.

Kathi said her inspiration for the book was a conversation with a trusted friend. “How can I run a tight ship when I am surrounded by all these loose cannons?” quipped Kathi. She told me she immediately paused. “That’s too good of title to not have a book attached to it,” and the merry title gave birth to an equally playful book.

Kathi builds the book on a metaphor which follows a person’s growth. First we crawl, then walk, and run. Hopefully as a Christian eventually we learn to fly as with wings of eagles (Isaiah 40.31). After these experiences we often learn that the most important place for a Christians is on our knees, back on our knees, in the same position we began our journey.

The book is woven with stories of women who influenced Kathi’s life from that of a young Christian to a mature believer. After coming full circle, Kathi realized that quite often she was the loose cannon. She needed to trust her Father more. By following the example of other, equally loose cannons around her, she found balance. These women helped here see that having the details of life lashed to the deck isn’t always God’s plan. He works through imperfect people who have learned to rely on Him in their weakness. A hard lesson for a person with a High D, Type A, Choleric personality like Kathi.

Overall, I recommend this book highly. We need to laugh at ourselves as we apply the lessons of discipleship. Kathi has woven together anecdotes and vignettes from her life which lead to laughter with a purpose. As proverbs says, a merry heart does good, like a medicine. (Prov 17.22)