Pastor, Jesus is Enough by Jeremy Writebol

Pastor, Jesus is Enough (Book Review)

There’s a common theme in Christian ministry right now: a lot of people, both in vocational and volunteer ministry are discouraged and weary. The upheaval we’ve seen in the last several years has many contemplating quitting altogether. What do they need to know to keep going—to recapture their sense of purpose and hope in what God has called them to do?

They need to set their eyes on Jesus as their only hope. To see him as enough for any and every storm. And that’s what they will find as they read Pastor, Jesus is Enough by Jeremy Writebol.

This book explores Jesus’s seven letters to seven churches from the first chapters of Revelation and considers what their message says not only to churches but to pastors specifically.

Pastors, messengers, and the mystery of the angels

So why pastors? After all, these letters are all directed to the “angel” of a specific church. One to the angel of Ephesus, another to the angel of Laodicia, and of Smyrna, and so forth.

Right way, we encounter a mystery. Most often when we encounter the word “angel” in Scripture, it’s typically referring to a supernatural being. A servant of God acting as a messenger.1 As Leon Morris described in his commentary, outside of these letters, there is nowhere else in Revelation where it doesn’t. But for “angel” in these letters to refer to supernatural beings doesn’t line up with the letter’s content.

This is where the mystery comes in.

We don’t entirely know what’s going on in this passage, which is why there are a number of different interpretations. Some commentators have suggested that these angels are a kind of guardian angel. Others, meanwhile, like Peter Leithart and Herman Hoeksema suggest that the angels in these letters may be referring to the pastors of these specific churches.

So Writebol approaches Revelation 2-3 with this latter view in mind as he writes (and does so with an appropriate level of open-handed conviction). And certainly, from my perspective, this was a helpful approach. This approach is helpful because it grounds Revelation in its first-century setting. Its message mattered to the lives of its first hearers in those moments. It offered a message of hope for life in that day, as well as beyond.

It told them, just as it tells us, that Jesus is with us—and Jesus is enough.

You can see how that might be helpful for us today, I’m sure.

Encouragement from Jesus for pastors—but not only pastors

Over its nine chapters, Pastor, Jesus is Enough encourages pastors to:

  1. love Jesus the most—to keep him first in their hearts
  2. Find fellowship with Jesus in suffering, especially when they are slandered
  3. Teach and tell the Truth, especially when it’s tempting to compromise
  4. Become like Jesus in his rejection of earthly fame and glory, his caring little for reputation and status (all the things we all probably care too much about)
  5. Abide in Jesus, to keep going back to the gospel again and again, and do not mistake external signs for evidence of health or faithfulness
  6. Find their value in Jesus and the freedom to be the kind of pastor Jesus made them to be
  7. Be pastors who repent, who own their sins and failings; who don’t obfuscate their shortcomings through omission or coded language

These are necessary encouragements. After all, how many times have we seen pastors torpedo their own ministries because they lost sight of what mattered most? Whether they’ve been caught up in the allure of some kind of fame, or trying to chase trends, it’s easy to lose the plot. But on every page, Writebol encourages—as one who needed this message himself—to let go of those things. Things that, in the end, don’t really matter all that much. Things that, if we build our identities on them, will leave us disappointed.

Jesus is enough for the non-vocational too

I am not a pastor. I am not in vocational church ministry. But even as a layperson, I found this book extremely helpful. All of the pitfalls the letters of Revelation warn about—the ones directed to the whole church, as well as their pastors—are ones that I need to be mindful of.

I, just as much as anyone else, need to find my value in Jesus. My value doesn’t come from my books’ sales rankings or review counts. It doesn’t come from downloads on a podcast or any other things I could try to attach it to. My life’s ultimate value comes from Jesu, and in an identity I receive from him by faith. To live as one of God’s beloved children, in whom he is well pleased.

“This received identity”, Writebol wrote, “frees us up to pursue becoming who we already are” (78).

I don’t have to labor to build an identity of holiness for myself. I already have one because Jesus earned and gifted his righteousness to me, and I ma in Christ. I can become who I already am.

Pastor, Jesus is Enough by Jeremy Writebol (78–79)

A needed and timely word for the discouraged

Whether we are in vocational or volunteer ministry, we will all have times when we are discouraged. I participate in several different ministry forums online, and I see this message time and again. People are tired. Discouraged. Disheartened. Ready to quit.

They need encouragement. Sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of a perspective shift. Other times it comes from a reminder from someone walking the same path as you. And all the time, we need to know that Jesus is with us, and Jesus is enough.

Pastor, Jesus is Enough helps its readers to remember all that. Whether you are feeling encouraged in your ministry or are struggling, I hope that you will read this book. And as you, may you be refreshed by the good news you find in its pages. Because Jesus really is enough. He always has been. And he always will be.

  1. Which is the meaning of the Greek word from which our English word is derived. ↩︎
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