Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.

Title:

Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul

Authors:

Scotty Smith and Russ Masterson (foreword by Steven Curtis Chapman)

Publisher:

Tyndale Momentum

Publication Date:

May 4, 2021

Format:

Hardcover

Length:

256 pages

OVERVIEW

Scotty Smith seemed to be at the top of his game in 1999. He was a successful pastor who had written a book with musician Steven Curtis Chapman, and was going on tour with Chapman. Then one night of the tour, he went on stage to give a message and everything seemed to stop. Smith realized he was not only exhausted that night; something was going on beneath the surface. Twenty years later, after years of unpacking his pain, Smith met young pastor Russ Masterson who asked Smith to mentor him. This book collects a series of conversations that Smith and Masterson had about growing spiritually, along with chapters about Smith’s journey dealing with his brokenness. Masterson shares stories about difficult experiences he had in ministry, and the things he learned from Smith along the way.

Ministry professionals experiencing “burnout” has become one of those uncomfortable but vital topics that keeps coming up. Books like Fear Gone Wild and Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About have talked about undergoing a crisis and handling it afterward. As early as the 1990s, there have been discussions about “Ghost Dads for Jesus” – pastors and missionaries focusing so much on work they neglect their families. On a less direct level, discussions about pastors struggling with pornography have highlighted how many men addicted to porn have childhood trauma (see Pure Desire).

These conversations come from different perspectives, but all reach the same conclusion: ignoring personal issues and trauma leads to stunted growth and doing foolish things to “medicate the pain.” Thus, ministry leaders who don’t face their issues will create dysfunction and hit a crisis point. To put it in a Biblical context, Christians are not just saved from death: they are called to be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), to daily die to their old selves. Scotty Smith emphasizes this point by describing a meeting with author Dan Allender, where Allender frankly told him, “Scotty, as long as your cry for relief is louder than your cry for a changed heart, you’re never going to grow as a man.”

Smith and Masterson share their ministry stories, with a particular emphasis on Smith’s post-burnout journey and how he reconciled with his past trauma. In many respects, Smith’s journey through after burnout sounds similar to stories that other pastors have shared. However, unlike many other post-crisis authors, Smith figured out what he had to do before hitting absolute rock bottom. There are no stories of time in rehab, disgraceful firings, or divorce proceedings here. Instead, Smith talks about becoming exhausted and realizing he had to do what his wife had done some years earlier: face his childhood trauma. While Smith’s story may not have the intensity of someone like Brennan Manning, in its own way his story is just as encouraging. It shows that while crisis may be what it takes to really wake people up to their problems, there’s a possibility to face one’s past before a drastic event takes place.

While Smith’s story could certainly have been a book by itself, pairing it with how he mentored Masterson adds an interesting dimension. Books about breakdown or suffering tend to be about one person, often highlighting the struggle to find other Christians who empathize. One could argue that most memoirs about suffering are less about the problem of evil and more about the problem of lacking community. Masterson’s story of Smith mentoring him and the lessons shared present a way that suffering Chtistians can find community. Thus, this book is a great companion to other books on suffering. We need books that admit problems and analyze what created the problems; we also need books that show solutions. Mourning and new learning must go hand in hand for healing to happen.

Altogether, a wonderful book on healing and mentoring.

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 out of 5 stars

Suggested audience

Pastors (or any ministry professionals) interested in how to avoid burnout or help others during and after burnout. It’s also a great book for ministry professionals concerned about achieving balance and understanding why ministry crises are so common.

Christian Impact

The authors talk about the need for other Christians to provide advice and community, and the need to recognize past pain in order to heal – all important concepts for sanctification. The story of how they met and built a mentoring relationship presents a great model of discipleship, which whether done in a communal or one-on-one context is vital to growing spiritually.

NOTE: Readers who enjoy this book may also enjoy Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle. To read ECLA’s reviews of those books, go to:

Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul


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