Pastor Swartz has written a helpful resource to offer hope to pastors who have faced (or are facing) difficult times, even disasters, in their ministries. He writes to help wounded pastors gain traction with the hope that they will stay on the battlefield as shepherds of the local church. It is obvious that Swartz is writing as one who has been in the furnace himself, but autobiographical illistrations are few.
Swartz breaks his little book into two clear parts: what the struggling pastor must stop doing and what he must start doing. Five practical things the hurting pastor must stop doing are highlighted. He must: stop blaming others, defending himself, worrying constantly, succumbing to anger, and viewing himself as a hero. In each of the categories Swartz provides practical and biblical insights and directives. In part two Swartz directs his readers to genuinely trust the sovereignty of God, accept the loving discipline of the Lord, forgive, ask for grace from the Lord, and prayerfully look ahead. Chapter six on God’s sovereignty is certainly the heart of the book: “God’s wisdom is so magnificent and His purposes so glorious that given the opportunity, knowing what you know now, you would gladly go through the same exact trial all over again” (p. 76)
If you are looking for someone to hold your hand through the dark times, Steve Swartz is not your man. He takes a direct, no nonsense approach. For example he writes, “If no one understands you, ‘so what’” (p. 49). I like that. Self-pity is not helpful during times of crisis but biblical response is and it is to this that the author points us. And Swartz is also quite specific in his advice. He recommends and outlines a half day of communion with God to create a turning point in the heart of the struggling pastor. He also writes a short appendix for pastor’s wives. He closes with an appendix on how to, and how not to, write a letter to leadership in an effort to communicate one’s position. This is valuable and wise material.
Shattered Shepherds is scriptural, practical, specific and a most useful guide for Christian leaders who have, or are facing, troubled waters in ministry. Every pastor should read this book and keep it handy for the day when it seems that all hope in ministry is lost.
(Kress Biblical Resources, 2015) 127 pp., paper $12.99
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel