Even before my last review of an ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers book, I eagerly anticipated receiving a copy of Serve Strong: Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants by Terry Powell for my next review. I had not previously heard of Powell, but after reading online others’ quotes on the book cover, on which there is a painting of depicting Jesus washing the feet of a disciple, I had in my mind that I’d be receiving a book of wisdom from an aged shepherd in grandpa-like style, encouraging those in what is often referred to as “formal ministry” to keep going and how the author has persevered through the decades. Perhaps I set my expectations too high or simply misconstrued what others had to say, but I don’t think I got that book.
Here is my admittedly gross summary of roughly the first half of the book: Preachers and preacher-like people, memorize Scripture, and when in need of anything, quote it. (Yes, for those who will critique my critique, there is much more, but in my opinion this speaks to the heart of the matter.) Of course, reading the Bible should be understood, and having Scripture memorized for immediate recollection is great—I’d hope it would also work on the heart and become part of who we are—but I don’t think reading or reciting words is a fix-it-all. Even the written Word of God can be read/quoted poorly and the meaning missed altogether. From my perspective, much of the first half really seems to be geared toward the fundamentalist preacher (those “proclaiming the Word of God,” which speaks to that which I’ve already noted) rather than anyone who should find him/herself dealing with people in some sort of ministerial fashion for much of their time and get discouraged and burnt out.
Fortunately, Powell does offer further thoughts by way of explaining particular Bible passages, providing examples of others who have been through particular situations, and a few anecdotes. There are a few chapters, all rather short and self-contained, I thought were quite nice (e.g., The Power of Owning Up) and would recommend these sections to others.
I’d considered providing more detail and specifics, but have considered those thoughts to be unnecessary in this particular kind of review, noting this only for those who would prefer I had provided them. So, with that in mind, I will only further note that I find there to be too many theological inconsistencies and sections I would want others to actually avoid. And so, all things considered, I would not recommend this book as a whole to anyone, and would rather, given a particular need, point someone to any number of biographies on those who have been through similar situations or to other more fitting devotionals and/or books of encouragement.
This is, of course, a book review, not a review of its author.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”