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On Jeremy Writebol’s “Jesus Is Enough.”
Jesus’s all-surpassing worth and majesty easily eclipse any other object that tries to steal our love and affection.
You can catch a glimpse of Jeremy Writebol’s heart for pastors in a myriad of avenues. From his efforts as the executive director of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, an online ministry publication that focuses on steering disciples (pastors included) to savor the sufficiency of Jesus, to his contributions to For The Church, the ministerial resource arm of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary whose central focus is facilitating pastors with the equipment and encouragement they need to labor well for the Lord. Jeremy’s enthusiasm for pastors to relish in the gospel of Christ likely stems from his own tenure as the campus pastor of Woolside Bible Church in Plymouth, Michigan. Serving Jesus as one among several undershepherds of the flock of God has provided him with a healthy and humble perspective on what it means for pastors to be saturated in the very message they are commissioned to speak to the sheep under their care. This labor of love for pastors has culminated in Jeremy’s newest book, Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken, in which he endeavors to fortify pastors in the good news of Jesus’s enough-ness.
Structured around St. John’s letters to the seven churches in Asia found in the first three chapters of his Revelation, Pastor, Jesus Is Enough is able to pinpoint several common areas of need for pastors in an affecting manner. As the Lord Jesus addresses the pastor of each of these congregations through the pen of his beloved apostle, you and I are likewise greeted with diverse words of application and resonance that befit our own ministries. Jeremy begins by calling pastors to remember that they belong to the Alpha and Omega (Chapter 1). As the Lord’s undershepherds, that is whom they represent. Jesus’s all-surpassing worth and majesty easily eclipse any other object that tries to steal the love and affection of his servants, most notably the bug of ministerial success that so often bites pastors most sharply (Chapter 2). Pastors can be given to craving after the applause and endorsement of their fellow man, but the good news is that “all the affirmation and approval we seek, the love we so long to get back from the mistress of ministry, is ours and is coming for us. We have it now by virtue of the fact that we are gripped securely in the hand of Jesus” (27).
Jesus is not stingy in dispensing his favor to his followers. Even — and especially — pastors are invited to find their sufficiency in him alone. Such is what allows them to hold fast when suffering and sorrow strike close to home (Chapter 3). And when those seasons of pain and affliction are prolonged, there is a Word that proves more than enough to stabilize our unsteady hearts in the security of his enough-ness (Chapter 4). “Those who uphold and give high esteem to the Word of God over the church,” Jeremy writes, “equip God’s people to endure suffering, calamity, and all sorts of pressures that would cause our brothers and sisters to shipwreck their faith” (53). It is this same Word that reveals that a pastor’s identity (Chapter 5), vitality (Chapter 6), and value (Chapter 7) are all downstream of the perfect work and person of Jesus. The Christ of God who substitutes himself for sinners has done all things necessary to put sin to death, including the sin of trying to find other avenues of meaning, even if that avenue is the ministry itself. “Jesus shows himself,” continues Jeremy, “as the truly prominent one to beat back the lies of a culture that says we make our own prominence” (104).
In the concluding chapters (Chapters 8 and 9), Jeremy brings home the gospel of Jesus’s enough-ness to speak to one of the more neglected areas of need in pastoral ministry — namely, the practice of repentance. Drawing on the words of Jesus to the church at Laodicea, Jeremy attests that “the pastors who are the most secure in their belonging to Christ are the ones that undertake the means of grace in repentance with regularity” (122). I say this is a neglected area of need because, in my experience in talking with other pastors, repenting of faults and failures epitomizes the biggest personal obstacle in the life of every minister. Owning up to spiritual fiascos can feel like ministerial suicide. But this is where the good news of Jesus’s enough-ness shines the brightest and speaks the loudest. It is precisely the gospel that assures every sinner, pastors included, that Jesus’s love is no fickle thing. His love, care, attention, and affection for you and me are anchored in his “once for all” death and resurrection. “Jesus loves me. So I can tell him anything,” Jeremy affirms, “Jesus loves me. I can own up to my greatest failures” (131).
With Pastor, Jesus Is Enough, Jeremy Writebol has penned an affecting and needed word for pastors and disciples alike to find their all in the abundant supply of God’s only begotten Son. His words are pointed at times but are never short on grace. Each page evinces his care and concern for the undershepherds of Christ’s church who are constantly being bombarded and bribed to find meaning and worth in something else, even something of their own making. I agree with Jeremy when he writes, “If there is a problem in the pastorate today it is this: we are chasing bad definitions of success while measuring ourselves by these bad definitions, and we don’t even realize we are missing the point” (15). Pastoral ministry in the modern age has become a platform for notoriety, attention, and acclaim. The individuals on the stage or behind the pulpit seem tailor-made for the spotlight, with charisma and personality oozing out of them. But assuming that that is what pastoral ministry is all about only betrays how muddied our views of the pastorate have become.
In the most simple of terms, pastoral ministry is all about a sinner who has been made to drink from the enough-ness of Jesus telling other parched souls where to find refreshment. “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country” (Prov. 25:25). Pastors have been situated by the Christ of God to announce the otherworldly message of absolution that is full and free on account of Jesus’s passion and death. They’ve been given a posting that is entirely concerned with fixating the church’s attention on the one who paid the ultimate price for the church’s ransom and redemption. Jeremy writes:
Fixing our eyes on his redemptive suffering renews our vision that he actually saves, and he saves us. We are reminded that it was his blood that was shed for our sins, his blood that was poured out for our failures as pastors. He died to ransom us for God, putting to death our attempts to earn our own status or position for God by our great pastoring . . . Our eyes are fixed on Christ, who is enough to rescue us from our greatest failures, our worst sermons, our poor counseling, our weak prayers, and our deepest sorrows. Christ died for us! He is enough for us. (145)
Pastor, sinner, Jesus is enough. He is always enough. He is forever enough. If you are weak, weary, and worn from the slog of local church ministry, I recommend you absorb the words of Pastor, Jesus Is Enough. In so doing, your heart and mind will be invited to find, as if for the first time, the enough-ness that lasts, that only Jesus can provide.
Jeremy Writebol, Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2023).