Parable Church: How Teachings of Jesus Shape the Culture of Our Faith

Reviewed by:

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


Parable Church: How Teachings of Jesus Shape the Culture of Our Faith


Mike Burnette with John Driver


Zondervan Reflective

Publication Date:

March 30, 2021


Softcover (paperback)


224 pages


Many people have discussed how to make a great church, but Jesus never gave a detailed formula on how to build one. Instead, he told parables – stories with messages applying across cultures and periods. Mike Burnett looks at three parables that pastors should pay attention to, highlighting insights on leadership and stewardship. As he explores these parables, Burnette talks about how the Holy Spirit factors into good church leadership, reminding leaders who actually gave them success and the call to ministry in the first place.

Driver select three parables: the prodigal son, the sower, and the three servants. The first one is quite popular with its emphasis on forgiveness. Most American churches don’t talk nearly as much about the next two parables, perhaps because they emphasize an idea that few American churches like to talk about: where success comes from. As Driver explains, a core idea in both parables is that we do not choose what we are given (our gifts, resources, period that we are born in), nor do we have much control over the results of our efforts. The sower doesn’t control which of the seeds become fruit, and the three servants don’t control how much they get to work with. Ultimately, success comes from a combination of doing well with what God has given, leaving the Holy Spirit to bring results. Consequently, good church leadership begins with humility, recognizing we can’t really control how much success we get. We can only be good stewards and act wisely. This Biblical message not only clashes with American individualism, it also forces us to realize that comparing different churches’ growth and envying others success won’t lead anywhere good.

Driver doesn’t dig much into the cultural and historical context of each parable (why asking for one’s inheritance ahead of time was so scandalous, etc.). Consequently, there are moments when his arguments could have been stronger. However, his arguments never feel forced, and his subject choice proves to be perceptive. The book pairs nicely with recent books on pastoral burnout (Searching for Grace, etc.) that show how often ministry professionals have crises over insecurities about things that they can’t control. The illusion that church leaders can control how much success they have, what others think of them, or whether they become well-known, has laid many a leader low. In that light, Parable Church is very topical.

A wise, timely reminder on maintaining and leading churches.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4 stars

Suggested Audience

Pastors or ministry leaders seeking to understand the Holy Spirit’s role in church planting, and common leadership mistakes to avoid.

Christian Impact

Driver avoids relying on specialized success models and statistic, focusing instead on what the Bible tells us that leaders should be interested in, how people grow and change. This make his message particular enough to our time to be relevant, but universal enough that it will continue past the current moment.

Parable Church: How the Teachings of Jesus Shape the Culture of Our Faith

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