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The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus
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The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Dear Pastor,

Desire burns within you. You've trained and dreamt of doing large things in famous ways as fast as you can for God's glory. But pastoral work keeps requiring your surrender to small, mostly overlooked things over long periods of time.

You stand at a crossroads. Jesus stands with you. You were never meant to know everything, fix everything, and be everywhere at
Paperback, 271 pages
Published September 30th 2015 by Crossway
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Demetrius Rogers
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry, soul-care
This was an outstanding read. Didn't know much of Zack Eswine before beginning this book, but I will definitely be visiting him again. I can tell he's somewhat of a contemplative. And he reads and cites many of my favorite authors, such as Eugene Peterson, Wendell Berry, and Marilynne Robinson. And the guy is a Spurgeon scholar too! (Did his dissertation on him.) So I've found an exciting new friend. And what a great author. His style is fresh and original. A little indirect, poetic even, but ...more
Graham Heslop
Nov 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Despite only giving this work three stars, I am convinced that it is one every pastor should read, perhaps more than once. There are a few reasons for my lower than average rating: (1) at times I wasn't sure if this book was autobiographical or instructive, while I'm not calling those genres exclusive I felt - for a book on ordinary ministry - that at times Eswine was working through his own experiences rather than offering the wisdom they provided; (2) the style was therefore frustrating at ...more
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, 2017
I don't think I possess an adequate vocabulary to even begin to try to describe what outstanding good God did to me through this book. The temptations, idols, and ambitions of missionaries are extremely similar to and as deadly as those of pastors. Being a PK, these are even more ingrained into my own soul's DNA.

Through these pages, I was exceedingly blessed, exceedingly comforted, exceedingly known, exceedingly convicted, exceedingly challenged, and exceedingly reoriented to the life-giving
Patrick Poteet
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book for pastors. Heart issues, practical issues - all a covered. My top pick for current books for pastors.
Craig Marshall
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book and plan to re-read it regularly. Zack also did some great talks based on this content at I had the privilege of interviewing him and his wife Jessica about some of these topics -
Ryan Hawkins
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Refreshing. I dont think I wouldve appreciated this much even a year ago. But now, being even only 1.5 years into full-time pastoral ministry, I can sense why its frequent for pastors to get discouraged, overwhelmed, and burnt outand Im not even a senior pastor. So, in this arena, this book is a breath of fresh air.

Honestly, it wasnt all spectacular. But thats okay. In fact, I think Eswine would be more than okay with that fact. But chapter by chapter spoke of a new aspect of ministry, and a
Steven Wedgeworth
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
A mostly forgettable book about pastoral ministry that seeks to be "realistic" but more often than not ends up repeating cliches or basic truths which are presented better in other and older treatises on pastoral ministry. Eswine writes this book from the perspective of failure, having lost his marriage and traded out a "big ministry" for a small and ordinary pastoral position. There's relatively little biblical exegesis to be found, and while Eswine does poke holes in his earlier romantic and ...more
Samuel Kassing
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. In some ways it is a more condensed rewrite of his earlier book Sensing Jesus. Its the same topics he covered in the earlier work but with 2/3 new content and without the poetry. This makes this work more accessible and easier to read. Personally, Sensing Jesus has probably been the most impactful pastoral theology book that Ive ever read. This book being in the same vein means that I cant recommend it highly enough.

We are all in a daily apprenticeship to Jesus where we
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry
Zack Eswine's book has effected and helped me more than any other book on pastoral ministry.
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent. Many good remarks regarding the character, work, and temptations of a pastor. I was challenged numerous times toward greater humility and gentleness.
Knowlton Murphy
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I would recommend it for anyone entering or in ministry. I have been personally challenged by its call to quietness of spirit and ambition for faithfulness over so-called greatness, and confronted the reality of my sinful desires to be and do what only God can be and do. Here are great words of sagacity for a most important task. My only warning is that if you are the type of person this book was written for, you should go it expecting to be slowed down. Eswine often writes ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a breath of fresh air for normal pastors. Eswine reminds (or informs) us that our ministry is local, only God is omnipresent, and that's actually best. He shares the struggles and failures of his ministry to remind us that we're not alone. All the while, he keeps pointing us back to Jesus.

This is a book I plan to reread about yearly. So much pastoral care in it and healthy reminders of the important things we are supposed to focus on as under-shepherds of Christ's flock.

One line shows that
This is a really good book about how to minister to others. I read this as part of a reading challenge for a "read a book written for the opposite gender" task. I am not a pastor, I'm just an everyday Christian who wants to help others in my church and community see Jesus more clearly, and I found this book to be extremely helpful. Not all parts of it were equally helpful for me (although I imagine a pastor would get a lot more out of this book than I did), but it was very encouraging. I like ...more
Sam Myers
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This has been the most influential book I've ever read about ministry, but more than that, it's an incredibly liberating and helpful book for any Christian who's been around evangelical culture for long enough to internalize some of its unhealthiness. Cautionary without being condescending, encouraging and both reassuring and challenging. I can't recommend this enough. I will say that the third part (there are four) drags considerably - in my opinion that section was fairly skippable. But the ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book that speaks to the heart of the pastor. This book was a profound encouragement meant to me and I would highly recommend. You'll find that Zack writes in a loving way, as if he were sitting next to you and comforting you.
Jean-Daniel Veer
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No doubt one of my favorite reads of all time.

He penetrates the heart to the core and questions everything that seems normal to establish a new normal.

Thank you Zack Eswine for this and many other.
Drew Bennett
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book destroyed me. It left me in a million pieces. Echoes of Eugene Peterson's books on pastoral ministry - a critique of business models of pastoral ministry, which I am weak to.

It might takes some time to put myself back together again. That is my only critique. Though Dr. Eswine clearly uncovered for me the ways I have turned my vocation into a for-profit enterprise, I am left with no picture to help me piece the puzzle back together again. I know what not to do, but am uncertain what
K Tan
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is such a refreshing read. I think not only pastors, but devoted Christians who take up leadership positions at church need to read this too. I thoroughly enjoy this book.
Heidi Reger
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone beginning in ministry - challenging but so helpful
Clive Parnell
Dec 09, 2017 rated it really liked it

Really helpful book looking at how we can grow in our faith and live as leaders.
Mark Durrell
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended Read for Church Leaders

I found this - in parts - very relevant to my current situation as a new minister to a new congregation. Especially found some insight in Section 3 to be formative.
Shihong Zu
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is formative. There were so many instances in which I clearly identified with the same temptations and struggles that Eswine brings into the light of God's grace. Definitely revisiting again every 2 years or so.
Drake Hyman
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In order to accurately explain why I liked this book so much, I have to give a little background about myself. I'm a 28 year old seminary student with little experience, a hunger for knowledge and a growing passion for pastoral ministry. I'm extremely idealistic. I see so many deficiencies in the world and the church and I want to "fix it all, know it all, be everywhere for all as fast and as famously as possible." Yet, in my current stage, I'm disappointed that Im not currently in a position ...more
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the most refreshing books I've read in a long long time, and might be my #1 of 2016. Started in late May, and just finished in September. I read this in conjunction with a few other books on Pastoral ministry, but by far this one was my favorite. I enjoyed it so much in part because of Eswine's poetic writing style, partly because he was an interim pastor at a church I used to attend in Muncie, partly because it reminds of a non-fiction version of the Pulitzer prize winning novel, ...more
Matthew Mitchell
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I did not enjoy this book, but, boy, did I need to read it.

Eswine's message in a nutshell:

"Mark this down, okay? You and I were never meant to repent for not being everywhere for everybody and all at once. You and I are meant to repent because we've tried to be" (pg. 74).

Reading "The Imperfect Pastor" quietly and slowly was an exercise in repentance for me and good medicine. There's nothing wrong with the book. It's so well-written it doesn't even taste like medicine going down. It's just that
Eric Anderson
May 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received this book providentially at a time of my life and ministry when I most needed to hear what Dr. Eswine has to say. This is the best book on the life of pastoral ministry I have every read. I digested the chapters slowly, over a 6 month period. There is much to highlight and underline. I found it spoke to my hurried heart and my cravings for success as the world defines it; yet not with rote cliques or critiques, but with wisdom about how to think about life from God's perspective, as ...more
Will Pareja
There's a reason for so many 5 star reviews.
Tucked away in this somewhat autobiog style is wise and rich reflection on the human soul and the care of it.
I'm glad I read it slowly (on a treadmill!).

Pastors are people whether they have the title/position or not.

Get this book. Read it with your spiritual leaders or a mentor.
One could easily turn this into conversation points with children or as fodder for internship training or elder reflection.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was timely and poignant. Eswine writes with experience and the scent of Jesus on him. Real pastoral ministry is an apprenticeship with Jesus toward our humanity. The call to be listeners and a healthy model of elder relationship and interaction. What Eswine paints is biblical shepherding which I can work toward in my context and pray it take root in other churches wasting time with personality and the celebrity models of the day.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
18 months into my first solo, senior pastorate; I had no idea just how much I needed this book. Zack Eswine's transparency and careful teaching have encouraged me, driven me to confession and prayer, and have reshaped my understanding of what it means to pastor. But most of all, this book has redirected all my hope and affection to Jesus, my Savior. I am truly thankful for this book.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Eswine reminds us that life and ministry are an apprenticeship in Jesus in which, by his grace, he recovers our humanity, and for his glory he enables others to do the same. ...more
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zack is an author, pastor and mentor seeking words for living humanly in Jesus.

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“It is possible for ministry leaders to desire greatness in ways no different from anyone, anywhere in our culture. Attaching Jesus’s name to these desires doesn’t change the fact that they look just like the cravings of the world.” 2 likes
“Second, God sometimes calls us to a congregation when we don’t yet have what it needs. Sometimes we can’t help a people until after we’ve been with them for a while, and being with them is the means God uses to teach us what he wants us to offer them. For” 1 likes
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