A look at the fatal role of idolatry in the life of a pastor
One look at Jesus hanging on the cross will teach you that if you make a conscious decision to deeply and sacrificially love sinners that it's going to hurt. While remaining focused on the cross, One the Brink will first seek to undertand the dangerous combination of difficult external ministry realities and deep-seated heart idolatries in a pastor's heart. One look at Jesus will also teach you that if God loved us even to the point of death on a cross, He'll provide strength to endure and hope to persevere through the incredible and humanly impossible calling of loving other fellow sinners. The latter part of the book will map out the even deeper and greater realities of God's incomprehensible grace that sustains the pastor's heart and joyfully shapes him into a servant-leader.
As we learn from Christs crucifixion, any decision to sacrificially love sinners is going to hurtreally hurt. And our own sin makes things even messier. Pastors and church leaders know both sides of this well. In fact, many pastors leave the ministry after only five years, and one study found that 1,400 pastors leave the ministry each month due to stress, disillusionment, or forced termination. Why is this? Ministry has many unique challenges. When the pain, frustration, and exhaustion of ministry build up in a pastors heart, its easy for him to lose sight of the incredible gifts given to him in Jesus Christ: hope and resurrection power that will strengthen him to carry on. Acknowledging the unique challenges of ministry, Pastor Clay Werner helps us reopen our eyes to the gospels soul-sustaining and heart-renewing comfort for church leaders.
Clay Werner (M.Div., Westminster Seminary in California) is senior pastor at Lexington Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, South Carolina, where he lives with his wife, Liz, and their five children.
"In a world filled with disappointment, disillusionment, and despondencyfreshly minted MBAs with no job prospects, idealistic young married couples facing the haunting sorrow of infertility, the middle-aged entrepreneur losing meaning in his 70-hour-a-week life as his wife announces 'it's over', and even faithful pastors panting for spiritual refreshment, withering beneath the scorching heat of their own unrealistic and unBiblical self-expectationsPastor Clay Werner, a gifted minister (who served as my own assistant minister after seminary), has not only faithfully diagnosed and treated this, sadly, common and debilitating spiritual malady with clear, faithful Scriptural exposition, he has done even more: Pastor Werner has dared to identify with the weary and worn believers by offering his own life as a model of human weakness, thereby revealing the measure of divine strength that he has enjoyed, that he now expounds, and that he now extends with unusual pastoral warmth and compassionate humanity to those thirsting for God and deep soul-healing. In doing so, Pastor Werner offers what he has found from Jesus Christ Himself: On The Brink: the 'steadfast love of the Lord.' I, thus, commend this wonderful book to the many wounded warriors in Gospel ministry I meet every dayclergy and laitywith full Gospel confidence that you will be well-nourished on the Word of life from a trusted young minister who holds my deepest admiration and respect."
Pastor Clay Werners On The Brink offers realistic, gospel-grounded, grace-saturated encouragement for embattled and weary pastors. Clay has experienced the wounds of ministry himself and has walked with brother-shepherds through their own dark valleys. He speaks with brutal honesty about the cost of caring for Christs often-willful, wayward flock. But he does not leave readers in that slough of despond. Rather, he brings Gods Word to bear on pastors aching and pity-prone hearts and reignites hope by directing our gaze away from ourselves and our obstacles and refocusing us on the abundant and amazing grace of God displayed in the gospel of Christ. Constantly drawing on Gods Word, On The Brink, shows new dimensions and relevance of the gospel that Christs herald are called to preach
as they take that gospel more deeply to heart for themselves. The antidote to the temptation to drop out of the shepherds costly calling is not renewal of our own teeth-gritted resolution, but a fuller view of the panorama of Jesus and his costly love for me.
Clay Werner is relentlessly honest about the challenges that beset faithful pastoral ministry in this day and age. But he is also relentless in pointing us back to the gospel as the source of strength in the midst of our weakness and encouragement in the midst of our weariness. This book provides a powerful reality check for those just entering the ministry as well as a valuable source of encouragement to those who are struggling in the trenches after many years of service.
This work by Clay Werner is life infusing, heart enflaming, and ministry anchoring. My weariness met its match in the Word of God as Werner escorted me into its riches applied to unvarnished realism as he unfolded its glorious gospel hope. I breathed deeply the rarified air of Christocentric life as I freshly faced my failures, weaknesses and trespasses as a pastor. Conviction and comfort flowed into me in wonderful health and help. Weary servants of the most high God, come and refresh in the Word as a vulnerable and exegetically grounded pastor helps you see Him and yourself. You will find this book is strong medicine for the hard places in ministry and life.
Clay Werners book is a remarkably useful contribution to a very pressing topic: how to maintain enthusiasm and delight in the ministry. Many will know of the high drop out rates from ministry but there are other problems too: bitterness, cynicism, exhaustion, unrealistic expectations, a tendency to end up merely going through the motions. Werner touches on all of these as he sets forth both an analysis of the difficulties in ministry and the solution. He touches on everything from the material (physical fitness, the need for sleep and to take rest) to the spiritual (the ever-present evils of pride and self-absorption) and provides numerous practical and theological suggestions. Along the way, the book is packed with anecdotes, biblical, personal, historical, and literary, which all help to underline the major points. The book is accessibly written, realistic in its analyses and proposals, and ideal for group study. I intend to use it with the ministerial students who attend the congregation where I am pastor. I know of no book which covers quite the same ground in such a concise and helpful way.
The weary and discouraged pastor needs truth, correction and hope. These three things Clay Werner serves up beautifully in his wonderful book On The Brink. Every pastor ought to read this book.
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