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Surviving Ministry: How to Weather the Storms of Church Leadership Paperback – May 6, 2016
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About the Author
Michael E. Osborne is Associate Pastor at University Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Orlando, Florida. His thirty years in ministry have also included pastorates in Missouri and South Carolina. He writes a blog for pastors called "Surviving Ministry: Encouragement for Joyfully Persevering as a Church Leader" (survivingministry.com).
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Some years ago Scott Peck, author of the The Road Less Traveled and numerous other books of practical psychology, addressed the reality of evil in everyday life. In People of the Lie, Peck noted that evil not only can be done by ordinary church folk and others whose social roles would suggest just the opposite, but may be especially likely in such people, because their social roles provide such effective cover to others and to the perpetrator’s own self-awareness.
Another author with keen insight into the capacity of organizations and systems to manifest evil is Walter Wink. In his series of books (e.g., Engaging the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, The Powers that Be), Wink makes the case that demonic-like forces are prone to gather strength within the dynamics of complex social organizations such as corporations, government bodies, and organizations including religious ones. It is as if evil takes on a life and power of its own to cause damage and mischief even when the individuals involved are ordinary people, “good” in most aspects of their everyday individual lives.
In Surviving Ministry, author Michael E. Osborne draws from his own personal experiences as a Christian pastor as well as experiences of colleagues and others who have found themselves in the middle of churches fraught by destructive conflict and sometimes scandal. His writing style is very accessible and readable, not academic. I found the book very engaging with many well-told stories involving all the elements of the human drama.
After making the case that conflict in churches is the norm rather than the exception, Osborne goes on to describe lessons learned and opportunities for reflection, growth, and positive action. Especially refreshing was his openness to admitting his own role in the conflicts he encountered and, with 20/20 hindsight, the mistakes he made.
The final section of the book is a series of helpful chapters written from the heart on how to not only survive ministry but fulfill the call of God to minister to congregations and grow in spiritual maturity in ways that enrich personal faith and include friends and family. This is one pastor’s courageous and honest account of his journey as a professional clergy and also as a father, husband, and human being. Osborne concludes with a reflection on how forgiveness can open space for God’s healing power to touch all concerned.
As a long-time professor at a Christian university and board member of numerous community and faith-based organizations, I found much in Surviving Ministry to be applicable to these other contexts for ministry and service. I thus highly recommend the book not only for clergy but also academics and servant-leaders in all manner of service-minded organizations.
Though the audience is primarily those in a formal church leadership role (e.g. pastor, elder, deacon or leadership team member), if you care about churches and ministries being well-led you will enjoy and benefit from Surviving Ministry. It's compact: I read it cover-to-cover in two sittings. If you've been in ministry for any length of time you will find yourself re-living experiences and challenges.
I met Mike about five years ago and have always appreciated his warm, personal touch as well as his grounded wisdom in ministry. Highly recommended.
It's also so much more. Having served only in behind-the-scenes church roles and active in membership, I don't know all the burdens that come with pastoring. Even still, I think this book should be read by any person who serves or even semi-regularly attends a church. It is a great resource and reminder of walking in humility with one another and how to actively support and encourage those in arguably the most difficult role around.
Mike's book captivates the audience from the first page all the way to the last with humble, honest relevant, real-life examples of what went well over his ministry, what didn't and how to navigate those situations. Further, he provides tangible and realistic solutions on how to hopefully avoid these catastrophic situations altogether or what to do when you find yourself in the middle of one.
Church leaders should read this book, but so should everybody around those people.