Book Review – On the Brink: Grace for the Burned-out Pastor (26/11)

One of the saddest things in ministry is to see pastors leaving the ministry after they’ve served for a number of years. This is sad not because they have not counted their cost before embarking on their calling, but because for some, if not most, would never return back to the ministry again. Many reasons could be attributed to him leaving, but is there a solution to this pertinent problem? Yes! Says Clay Werner, the author of this book.On the Brink: Grace for the Burn-out Pastor

Werner in this book wants to help pastors understand that they are firstly not the only ones going through these discouragements, setbacks or obstacles. Pastoral work is hard, and it is only by preserving in God’s grace can pastors hope to pastor their churches well. This is done in 2 large parts, Werner first draws out the problems often surfaced in pastoral ministry. First, he explores external problems, like the (ungrateful, maybe even rebellious!) people who the pastors minister to, the conflicts that occurs in churches, the (im)balance between family and ministry, the isolation faced by ministers. Next, he continues to help pastors search their hearts, exploring into the heart of the problem, whose kingdom do the pastors really want to build? God’s or theirs? Lastly, he explores the issues of disillusionment that pastors faces when they start their ministry.

From these issues, Werner then draws the readers to an important point, that the resurrection of Christ, our saviour changes everything and gives us hope for any issues we face in ministry. From it he present the “balms” of the gospel to the preachers, helping them see the depth of God and Christ’s love towards them, and only through that can they have the strength to love others. The next chapter, which I felt was the best chapter within this book, Werner brings the readers to see the example that Christ sets for us whilst serving us sinners. This really is an in-depth study on 1 Tim 1:15 (The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.), which I felt ministered to me a lot, even though I am not a pastor, I find the pointers resonates with me very well even as I ministers as a small group leader.

Werner continues on to help pastors deal with various other issues, such as selfishness (which I think many (not just pastors) will struggle with), unity of the church. He deals with these issues, not with legalism, but gently and gospel-centric-ly, drawing the pastors to see how the gospel enables us to deal with them even amidst the pain we’re suffering.

Lastly, he encourages pastors to continue and not to give up. This is definitely a good chapter to end with, Werner speaks with a lot of wisdom and tells pastors to continue on. Why? Because God never ever has given up on us even though we are stubborn and extremely stiff-necked against Him, and God has promised to work in His people, we should press on, with God is still at work.

Werner presents to the readers many helpful doctrines in this book, he draws on the depth of God and Jesus’s grace, Luther’s Theology of the Cross and John Newton’s pastoral advice. What might be surprising to the readers is that the author has not even pastored more than ten years! Yet, this is a book that pastors need, it’s never too late or too early to read this book. Highly recommended for pastors, young or old, one day you will need this book. Why not read it first to prepare yourself for it? And once more, when you really need it. Don’t give up, Don’t depend on yourself either. The gospel is still the only solution you need, trust in the Lord and depend on His grace for His ministry.

And to end off, here is a quote from John Newton:

May it please our heavenly Father to continue to give us all gospel endurance in gospel ministry.

By his care of the present, he gives us a pledge that he will take care of the future. Believe, fight on and fear nothing, for nothing can really hurt you. —John Newton

Rating: 4.75 / 5

If you’re interested, you can get it here, and here (free international shipping), Kindle.

Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.