Studying the pastoral epistles is a staple of pastoral internships, residencies, and ministry courses in seminary. Future pastors are encouraged to build a foundation from these letters because they’re the portion of the New Testament everyone agrees is specifically addressed to them. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus reveal the nature of the office, the specifics of the pastoral calling, and the way pastors are meant to care for the church.
In Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken, Jeremy Writebol goes beyond Paul’s three pastoral epistles to provide encouragement. Writebol is lead campus pastor of Woodside Bible Church in Plymouth, Michigan. He’s no stranger to ministry or its struggles.
Writebol shows how Jesus’s letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation serve as an encouragement to the men who serve in churches as pastors. He argues that the first three chapters of Revelation are addressed to the whole congregation, with a special emphasis on the implications for pastors.
Pastor, Jesus Is Enough
Pastor, Jesus Is Enough
Lexham Press. 192 pp.
Being enough is exhausting. But pastor, the good news is that you cannot be enough. Because only Jesus is enough.
In Pastor, Jesus Is Enough, Jeremy Writebol invites pastors to hear the words of the risen Jesus in the seven letters within Revelation 2–3. The exhortations in Revelation 2–3 are directed to churches. But they also exhort pastors.
Lexham Press. 192 pp.
In Revelation, John writes about “seven stars” in Jesus’s right hand (Rev. 1:16). These, he explains, “are the angels of the seven churches” (v. 20). The churches themselves are described as “seven lampstands” (vv. 12, 20).
But who are the “angels of the seven churches?” At first blush it may seem that “angels” in this context are supernatural, guardian angels. Writebol, following Peter Leithart and a long history in Reformed teaching, argues that John isn’t talking about a church’s specially assigned angel but rather a messenger of the church: a pastor. This means “the letters are personal addresses from Jesus to these pastors about who he is and who they are” (6).
This interpretative approach acts like a lens correcting astigmatism. It snaps pastoral implications into focus like putting on brand-new glasses. It showed me things about myself and my ministry that were distorted before.
These are letters from Jesus to pastors. This directness adds to their weight as they point to where repentance may be needed, encourage working in the ministry with strength supplied by Christ, and remind pastors that only Jesus is enough.
Exhortation and Encouragement
Having made his case that pastors are the target of the first three chapters of Revelation, Writebol walks through each of the seven letters. He draws out what Jesus has to say about himself and about pastors.
Writebol doesn’t make excuses for pastors. He understands that pastoral ministry is a high calling and doesn’t seek to lower the bar. When Jesus has a rebuke, Writebol doesn’t shy away from highlighting it. Pastors must recognize they aren’t sufficient before they can understand only Jesus is enough.
Pastors must recognize they aren’t sufficient before they can understand only Jesus is enough.
He reminds readers that being faithful in pastoral ministry doesn’t prevent suffering. As a pastor, it’s tempting to believe that if I can preach, teach, pray, counsel, lead, and care well enough, people will like me and will never leave the church. Writebol argues that “suffering for the pastor is a normative reality of ministry” (35). This is a convicting reminder to church leaders that they can’t do everything in their own strength.
Pastor, Jesus Is Enough helps pastors see how subtly the point of ministry can become a quest for self-justification. Even the spiritualized language of “I just want to be faithful” can cloak the sinful desire to leave a personal legacy. We’re often content for Jesus to get the glory from our ministry––as long as we get some too.
This may sound more like a trip to the woodshed than an encouragement. However, like Jesus in his letters to the churches, Writebol doesn’t leave readers with the accusations.
Relief comes, as we should expect, through the gospel. Over and over again, Writebol brings pastors back to the hope that comes only through Jesus’s atonement. He reorients pastors to the reality that they serve as those who are already beloved by God the Father and that Jesus is enough for us.
He reorients pastors to the reality that they serve as those who are already beloved by God the Father.
God gives pastors an identity in the gospel that frees them to repent and return to Jesus. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, pastors are free to own up to their failures without minimizing or dismissing them. As Writebol points out from the letter to the church at Laodicea, “What makes it safe for the pastor to repent is that the one bearing witness against him is also applying the remedy to him” (127). When pastors run to Jesus for grace, they’ll find it, because Jesus holds them in his hands.
Pastor, Jesus Is Enough will encourage pastors to pursue holiness but ultimately to find their rest in the risen Christ. This book is a blessing to pastors. It deserves to be widely read.