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Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being

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In a style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson, pastor turned professor Zack Eswine knows what burnout looks like and writes out of heartfelt concern for those in full-time ministry. Eswine draws on personal stories of crisis, shares openly about his own failures, and communicates honestly about what he has seen throughout his twenty years in ministry, providi In a style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson, pastor turned professor Zack Eswine knows what burnout looks like and writes out of heartfelt concern for those in full-time ministry. Eswine draws on personal stories of crisis, shares openly about his own failures, and communicates honestly about what he has seen throughout his twenty years in ministry, providing readers with a much-needed, authentic look at life in the trenches. Eswine also covers practical matters such as how to pray for the sick, how to make leadership decisions, how to do church discipline, and how to handle family dynamics and pressures in pastoral ministry. Presenting sound pastoral theology couched in autobiographical musings and emotive prose, this book offers a fresh and biblically faithful approach to the care of souls, including your own.


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In a style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson, pastor turned professor Zack Eswine knows what burnout looks like and writes out of heartfelt concern for those in full-time ministry. Eswine draws on personal stories of crisis, shares openly about his own failures, and communicates honestly about what he has seen throughout his twenty years in ministry, providi In a style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson, pastor turned professor Zack Eswine knows what burnout looks like and writes out of heartfelt concern for those in full-time ministry. Eswine draws on personal stories of crisis, shares openly about his own failures, and communicates honestly about what he has seen throughout his twenty years in ministry, providing readers with a much-needed, authentic look at life in the trenches. Eswine also covers practical matters such as how to pray for the sick, how to make leadership decisions, how to do church discipline, and how to handle family dynamics and pressures in pastoral ministry. Presenting sound pastoral theology couched in autobiographical musings and emotive prose, this book offers a fresh and biblically faithful approach to the care of souls, including your own.

30 review for Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Because this book was written for pastors, I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. It was recommended on a blog I read as a great book to encourage moms in their ministry to their husbands and children. The review of the the book really sparked my interest, but I was not expecting to find so many heart-checks and challenges in this simple encouragement to live out our ministry the way Christ did. The book touches on so many aspects of how this needs to be applied, but the foundational c Because this book was written for pastors, I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. It was recommended on a blog I read as a great book to encourage moms in their ministry to their husbands and children. The review of the the book really sparked my interest, but I was not expecting to find so many heart-checks and challenges in this simple encouragement to live out our ministry the way Christ did. The book touches on so many aspects of how this needs to be applied, but the foundational concept of the book is this: God has called us to live as human beings within our lives of service to Him, and not be grasping for something bigger, something more notable, worthwhile, and important (essentially, to seek to be God). Instead, we are meant to live a life of worship to a God Who is, and humbly delight in our own humanity in patient contentedness with the limits He has given us. The author challenges the reader by comparing the world's value system with a biblical one, reminding us to embrace the work God has put before us, no matter how common and mundane. Many examples from Jesus' life are the given as the ultimate standard of how this should look in application. Digesting this book has been transforming for me in big and small ways, as I consider how to apply it, and find how challenging that can be for me personally. There are few books that have been as impactful for me in the last several years. This is a book for pastors, moms, husbands, teachers, missionaries, daughters, counselors, bus drivers, nurses, mailmen...anyone who wants to grow as a disciple of Christ.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell Dixon

    Simply fantastic. This book made me cry and challenged me in profound ways. Sensing Jesus the the heart of what I want to exemplify as a minster of the Gospel.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I don't know of a more humane book about the Christian life. Grace saturated words that restore my hope in the Lord to work with me and through me to do his will. I've never read a book that did a better job of recognizing the limits and humiliations of being human. Maybe some day I'll rip off this idea and write a similarly humane book for mothers, because I think there are a lot of women who need the heart of this book but applied to life as a human mother. A little meandering, at times a litt I don't know of a more humane book about the Christian life. Grace saturated words that restore my hope in the Lord to work with me and through me to do his will. I've never read a book that did a better job of recognizing the limits and humiliations of being human. Maybe some day I'll rip off this idea and write a similarly humane book for mothers, because I think there are a lot of women who need the heart of this book but applied to life as a human mother. A little meandering, at times a little too long, but unparalleled.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    I never would have picked up this book, but for the recommendation on the Girl Talk blog {I respect the Mahaney women's choices of books!} It is a book written to pastors, but I found its relevance to me as a mama, wife, blogger, and missionary astounding. A completely refreshing look at doing ministry {YES, you are a minister if you are a mama}, in the way of Jesus as opposed to our current Christian culture of bigger is better, "build your platform and they will come", and an over-focus on cele I never would have picked up this book, but for the recommendation on the Girl Talk blog {I respect the Mahaney women's choices of books!} It is a book written to pastors, but I found its relevance to me as a mama, wife, blogger, and missionary astounding. A completely refreshing look at doing ministry {YES, you are a minister if you are a mama}, in the way of Jesus as opposed to our current Christian culture of bigger is better, "build your platform and they will come", and an over-focus on celebrity. I would have easily given this book 5 stars, but I got a little bored/muddled in the middle of the book....the beginning and end were very poetic, beautiful, and captivating, and the middle sort of lost me a bit. BUT, the beginning and the end are completely worth the read, in my opinion. Oh, that we would all embrace being overlooked, and yet how hard it is to put down our pride and actually DO that. Some quotes: In Jesus, we do not do away with possessing an ambition for great things. Rather we learn in him to make sure that the greatness we strive for is the kind that he values.” “Therefore, those of you searching for something larger, faster, and more significant, who feel that if you could just be somewhere else doing something else as somebody else, then your life would really matter—Jesus has come to confound you… He may call you to courageously prize what is overlooked and mundane among those whose cravings for the next and the now might cause them to soon overlook you…” "I am writing to you as one who feels profoundly rescued from himself by the abounding grace of Jesus. But the stale waters of celebrity, consumerism, and immediate gratification had infiltrated my drinking water, and I did not realize it. I fear a lot of us don't." "God is the remembered one. But this does not mean we are forgotten-not by Him. Not by a long shot. In fact, being remembered by Him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world. Living humanly within His remembrance is enough."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This book wasn't bad. It urges fellow ministers to slow down, keep sights on Jesus, and not let fame/ego/instant gratification cloud ministry goals. Throughout the book Zach Eswine weaves in cautionary tales from his own past and I think that's where the book shines brightest, when he's describing what to avoid. This may sound like a surface issue but it severely impacted my reading experience: I wish the chapters were shorter. I got lost within the chapters because they kept going and going. For This book wasn't bad. It urges fellow ministers to slow down, keep sights on Jesus, and not let fame/ego/instant gratification cloud ministry goals. Throughout the book Zach Eswine weaves in cautionary tales from his own past and I think that's where the book shines brightest, when he's describing what to avoid. This may sound like a surface issue but it severely impacted my reading experience: I wish the chapters were shorter. I got lost within the chapters because they kept going and going. For example, there were sections within the chapter labeled "conclusion" and I was sometimes unclear of the larger arch of a chapter or the book as a whole. Again, chapter breaks may sound like a small issue but it made a difference.

  6. 5 out of 5

    E

    This is a difficult book to review. I've heard Zack preach, teach, sing, etc., so I know what he's capable of. This book has a decent amount of good advice for the pastor, but he seems to make it as difficult as possible to ferret out. He has intentionally written in a 'round-the-bush sort of way. What he is most direct about is his own failings and mistakes along the way, which is refreshing. So what did I learn? We are not the Christ. We cannot be everywhere, know everything, fix everything. Th This is a difficult book to review. I've heard Zack preach, teach, sing, etc., so I know what he's capable of. This book has a decent amount of good advice for the pastor, but he seems to make it as difficult as possible to ferret out. He has intentionally written in a 'round-the-bush sort of way. What he is most direct about is his own failings and mistakes along the way, which is refreshing. So what did I learn? We are not the Christ. We cannot be everywhere, know everything, fix everything. That is the overall thrust of the book, although the hodgepodge nature tends to make it difficult to know where we've been or where we've going. His writing is difficult to describe. I would suggest checking out his blog: http://preachingbarefoot.com/

  7. 4 out of 5

    J. J.

    I'm not putting it dramatically when I say that I turned to this book to tell me what I knew I needed to hear before I ran myself right out of the ministry through idolatrous anxiety and godless striving after the wind. It was all I hoped it would be. Thank you, Zach Eswine. Words fitly spoken… I'm not putting it dramatically when I say that I turned to this book to tell me what I knew I needed to hear before I ran myself right out of the ministry through idolatrous anxiety and godless striving after the wind. It was all I hoped it would be. Thank you, Zach Eswine. Words fitly spoken…

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joe Roseman

    This book is eye opening and so challenging. I am quite limited in wisdom and even lesser in experience, so it is necessary for me to hear about ministry as a human being from a man seasoned in ministry like Zack. I think even the most mature and experienced among us should. It effectively takes a look down the ministry road and points to the various obstacles a person will encounter or be the cause of in a life of discipleship to Jesus, and teaches how to lean on Jesus in the midst human helple This book is eye opening and so challenging. I am quite limited in wisdom and even lesser in experience, so it is necessary for me to hear about ministry as a human being from a man seasoned in ministry like Zack. I think even the most mature and experienced among us should. It effectively takes a look down the ministry road and points to the various obstacles a person will encounter or be the cause of in a life of discipleship to Jesus, and teaches how to lean on Jesus in the midst human helplessness and temptation to place acclaim in front of the people around us. This took me a long time (which I am glad for). It confronted me and encouraged me in a number of unforeseen ways. It is well worth prayerfully chewing on for a long time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ryan J.

    Fantastic read for any pastor or Christian leader that wants to walk as an apprentice of Jesus. Zack's book is beautifully written and is very practical. He wants us to come back to being humans, and remember how Jesus is renewing our humanness. We don't have to be superhuman or super-spiritual to be known by our God, or useful in the world. Take and read! Fantastic read for any pastor or Christian leader that wants to walk as an apprentice of Jesus. Zack's book is beautifully written and is very practical. He wants us to come back to being humans, and remember how Jesus is renewing our humanness. We don't have to be superhuman or super-spiritual to be known by our God, or useful in the world. Take and read!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emily Zell

    Gosh this book is excellent. It is gentle and slow and vulnerable and overflowing with wisdom. I can’t recommend it enough.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shaela

    Wasn't crazy about his writing style (too much description) but I did really appreciate his thoughts on what it means to be finite human beings - to have limits, and how that is a good and God-ordained state for us. The book is marketed to pastors and others in full-time ministry, but as the author points out, nearly everything he writes applies perfectly well to the ordinary Christian. Kinda devotional and meditative, not really the kind of book I naturally gravitate to, but I definitely benefi Wasn't crazy about his writing style (too much description) but I did really appreciate his thoughts on what it means to be finite human beings - to have limits, and how that is a good and God-ordained state for us. The book is marketed to pastors and others in full-time ministry, but as the author points out, nearly everything he writes applies perfectly well to the ordinary Christian. Kinda devotional and meditative, not really the kind of book I naturally gravitate to, but I definitely benefited from it. So thanks, Sarah. :)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Joe Haack

    The personal parables, the biblical insights, and the gracious corrections that shape this book were hard-won and oh-so-very expensive. While slow-cooking in this sane book, I was very often overwhelmed with gratitude: "what a helpful book; what a beautiful book; what a courageous book!" I place this beside Dave Hansen's Art of Pastoring and anticipate more earmarks and marginalia on its already well-worn pages (if I don't give it away first). The personal parables, the biblical insights, and the gracious corrections that shape this book were hard-won and oh-so-very expensive. While slow-cooking in this sane book, I was very often overwhelmed with gratitude: "what a helpful book; what a beautiful book; what a courageous book!" I place this beside Dave Hansen's Art of Pastoring and anticipate more earmarks and marginalia on its already well-worn pages (if I don't give it away first).

  13. 5 out of 5

    J'Layne

    I read this book based on the recommendation of a friend and I'm glad I did. I really love the way Eswine pens the thoughts and processes of Jesus' example in mentoring us. Beautiful word pictures. I was really encouraged and upheld by the candid ways our human failures allow Jesus to shine brightly in and through us as we slow down, listen, have patience, and let Him lead us in leading others. I read this book based on the recommendation of a friend and I'm glad I did. I really love the way Eswine pens the thoughts and processes of Jesus' example in mentoring us. Beautiful word pictures. I was really encouraged and upheld by the candid ways our human failures allow Jesus to shine brightly in and through us as we slow down, listen, have patience, and let Him lead us in leading others.

  14. 4 out of 5

    nate

    Over the years, certain books feel like a person you meet and you know immediately that you'll become fast friends. This book joined that pile after just a few pages. I can't adequately express how helpful and soul-nourishing this book has been for me. Over the years, certain books feel like a person you meet and you know immediately that you'll become fast friends. This book joined that pile after just a few pages. I can't adequately express how helpful and soul-nourishing this book has been for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Omar

    This book deserves careful, slow, reflective reading and re-reading. Probably the best book on pastoral ministry I've read. This book deserves careful, slow, reflective reading and re-reading. Probably the best book on pastoral ministry I've read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bauer Evans

    Zack is a sensitive author and physician of the soul. For the 'burned out' or 'bummed out', it speaks volumes. Read it slowly for it will put hope about the future back into your present too. Zack is a sensitive author and physician of the soul. For the 'burned out' or 'bummed out', it speaks volumes. Read it slowly for it will put hope about the future back into your present too.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Braden

    This book was highly recommended to me by some people that I really trust. And what I read was absolutely excellent. But I just. couldn't. finish. it. As profound as much of the content is, I ultimately hit a wall because the author's writing style became borderline unbearable. First the good. The book is split into two sections, and the first was outstanding. Eswine walks through the different ways that we burn ourselves out by trying to be what we aren't: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent This book was highly recommended to me by some people that I really trust. And what I read was absolutely excellent. But I just. couldn't. finish. it. As profound as much of the content is, I ultimately hit a wall because the author's writing style became borderline unbearable. First the good. The book is split into two sections, and the first was outstanding. Eswine walks through the different ways that we burn ourselves out by trying to be what we aren't: omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. It's about learning to minister as humans, rather than trying to minister as God. We tend to expect ourselves to be what we're not, and then feel overwhelmed when we inevitably fail. It was gracious, pastoral, and encouraging. A wonderful word to the exhausted. The general idea of making the focus of our ministry on the people in front of us, in the place where God has us was a breath of fresh air. It's a compelling and refreshing correction to the spirit of today's evangelical church, which elevates numbers and results as the primary metric for success. Or, in Eswine's word, greatness. This was probably one of my biggest takeaways; the problem is not that we emphasize a pursuit of greatness, but the problem is with how we define greatness. The humble pastor of a 25-person church who focuses on the people in front of him and misters to them well, is exceedingly more successful than a megachurch pastor who is more focused on numbers than ministering to the people in the seats. It's a prophetic word to a Church which has unwittingly embraced the hyper-consumeristic values of our culture, and I'm thankful for faithful men like Eswine who call us to rearrange our values. After the first part of the book, however, it became exceedingly more difficult to read. Not because of the content, but because of the author's writing style. It wasn't always clear what his points were, or what it was he was trying to communicate. It sometimes felt like a stream of consciousness that he just wrote down and then published. The language he used also did more to muddle the point he was trying to make. The main issue I had, however, was with the fact that he seemed to take 10 pages to say what he could have said in 2. It felt like reading an orthodox Rob Bell. So overall, it was an excellent book that could have been better by being more clear and concise. Which is unfortunate, because I think Eswine's message may be one of the more important ones for the Church to receive. I hope more people embrace his message and incorporate it into their ministry. I know I will be trying to do so.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Zack Eswine's book helps us think about what it means to do life and ministry as a human being. He's "a bit of a hippie," as one of my friends says, and the "style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson" should raise some flags, but his book at least raises some questions to think about. Being human means being limited, rooted, and - for all of us after the fall - flawed. Being human means being yourself and not running out of breath trying to be someone else. It means being in one pla Zack Eswine's book helps us think about what it means to do life and ministry as a human being. He's "a bit of a hippie," as one of my friends says, and the "style reminiscent of Donald Miller and Eugene Peterson" should raise some flags, but his book at least raises some questions to think about. Being human means being limited, rooted, and - for all of us after the fall - flawed. Being human means being yourself and not running out of breath trying to be someone else. It means being in one place and not others. It means being part of one family and not others. Our expectations of what life under the sun is should be human. People expect the superhuman, but God doesn't, because He knows our frame. Following Jesus is a daily apprenticeship in recovering our humanity.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    A worthwhile read, especially for those training for pastoral ministry. The author's life-anecdotes were helpful and his ability to draw out the significance of the common and overlooked corners of life was especially poignant. The lengthy discussion of how unhelpful it is when we try to imitate God's incommunicable attributes (e.g. omnipresence, omniscience, etc.) was really good. However, it seemed the author was trying to be too creative with his prose and vocabulary, and that proved distract A worthwhile read, especially for those training for pastoral ministry. The author's life-anecdotes were helpful and his ability to draw out the significance of the common and overlooked corners of life was especially poignant. The lengthy discussion of how unhelpful it is when we try to imitate God's incommunicable attributes (e.g. omnipresence, omniscience, etc.) was really good. However, it seemed the author was trying to be too creative with his prose and vocabulary, and that proved distracting and sometimes confusing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Mounce

    Great stuff

  21. 5 out of 5

    Coram Deo Church

    Sensing Jesus is not currently available at local libraries.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott Kennedy

    This book makes some fantastic points about ministry, and although it seems aimed at pastors, I think many of the points made are relevant for all Christians. One theme that he hammered was "You are not the Christ." He showed how we try to be every where, fix everything and know everything, and encourages us to realise that we cannot and to realise our humanness. He challenged our natural tendency to assume that a bigger church is blessed more than a smaller church. He challenged our celebrity i This book makes some fantastic points about ministry, and although it seems aimed at pastors, I think many of the points made are relevant for all Christians. One theme that he hammered was "You are not the Christ." He showed how we try to be every where, fix everything and know everything, and encourages us to realise that we cannot and to realise our humanness. He challenged our natural tendency to assume that a bigger church is blessed more than a smaller church. He challenged our celebrity idol and the way this applies to churches and pastors. He also had a great challenge in his chapter on immediacy, where he spoke about patience. What I did not appreciate so much about the book, was the style. This is probably more a reflection of me rather than a comment about Zack's writing style. It rambled along. The chapters were quite long, and you tended to lose where you were going. I found that there was a lot of good stuff, but it would have been helpful to have key point summaries at the end of the chapter.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ken Mcafee

    I will be "chewing" on this book for some time yet. If you read only one book on "doing ministry" this year, make it this one. Zack's humility and hard-learned lessons are invaluable to anyone in the ministry, or trying simply to live follow Jesus Christ as a human being. I have wondered where my place in ministry is, but Zack's statement on how the shepherds in Bethlehem responded helps me understand perhaps: "God's visitation empowers us to return [to our normal lives] and live." We should be y I will be "chewing" on this book for some time yet. If you read only one book on "doing ministry" this year, make it this one. Zack's humility and hard-learned lessons are invaluable to anyone in the ministry, or trying simply to live follow Jesus Christ as a human being. I have wondered where my place in ministry is, but Zack's statement on how the shepherds in Bethlehem responded helps me understand perhaps: "God's visitation empowers us to return [to our normal lives] and live." We should be yearning to create such a ministry in our assigned place... I know I will...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott Burns

    This book provides some good insights, but I really dislike the writing style. Eswine challenges us to resist our temptations to be God-like in ministry by trying to be everywhere, know everything, and fix everything. Challenging us instead to slow down, be present, and trust Jesus to do the work. It's a simple enough message, interspersed with vulnerable self-disclosure, and many thought-provoking questions. However, it is overly verbose, highly poetic, laden with (poetic) jargon. Those who appr This book provides some good insights, but I really dislike the writing style. Eswine challenges us to resist our temptations to be God-like in ministry by trying to be everywhere, know everything, and fix everything. Challenging us instead to slow down, be present, and trust Jesus to do the work. It's a simple enough message, interspersed with vulnerable self-disclosure, and many thought-provoking questions. However, it is overly verbose, highly poetic, laden with (poetic) jargon. Those who appreciate his writing style will absolutely love what this book offers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Eswine has set before us a call to be human. To be united with Christ, mentored by him and made to be fully human. It is an important message for those in ministry and I value the time I spent reading and letting the message sink in. The structure of the book made reading a lengthy process. To be fair, Eswine warns of this fact. With each chapter I was waiting for a break but he kept going. I needed to digest this truth but I needed it to be more digestible in form.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gavin McGrath

    Certain sections and themes of this book were a tonic for me, as a pastor with over 30 years bumpy experience. I resonated with sections. Other parts didn't work for me. I think it is his style. There are points when he seems to try sounding poetic but I missed it. Still, an essential read for pastors, his Americanisms not to the contrary. He is an honest writer who knows grace, mercy, and the Lord Jesus. Certain sections and themes of this book were a tonic for me, as a pastor with over 30 years bumpy experience. I resonated with sections. Other parts didn't work for me. I think it is his style. There are points when he seems to try sounding poetic but I missed it. Still, an essential read for pastors, his Americanisms not to the contrary. He is an honest writer who knows grace, mercy, and the Lord Jesus.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shelly

    Much needed book. Written for pastor's, but could be read by anyone with a desire to minister in some capacity. I soaked up his words like a balm to my soul. He is gutsy, honest, reflective and patient with his readers. His use of scripture is solid. Beautifully written; I would recommend this book to anyone. Much needed book. Written for pastor's, but could be read by anyone with a desire to minister in some capacity. I soaked up his words like a balm to my soul. He is gutsy, honest, reflective and patient with his readers. His use of scripture is solid. Beautifully written; I would recommend this book to anyone.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ben Duncan

    It seems many ministers try to be something other than human as they serve. This book is all about embracing and ministering out of a self-awareness of our humanity. The author's authenticity and sincerity are evident on every page. A very good read for both those in ministry and those preparing for it. It seems many ministers try to be something other than human as they serve. This book is all about embracing and ministering out of a self-awareness of our humanity. The author's authenticity and sincerity are evident on every page. A very good read for both those in ministry and those preparing for it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cody Alan

    Ok. Not bad. Didn't finish all of it. The best part was the conversation about "know it alls" and this idea of doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time. Incredibly powerful and helpful truths. I'm not a "senses" guy so the book was a little weird in that sense. Great stuff overall tho. Ok. Not bad. Didn't finish all of it. The best part was the conversation about "know it alls" and this idea of doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time. Incredibly powerful and helpful truths. I'm not a "senses" guy so the book was a little weird in that sense. Great stuff overall tho.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Wow, this book is to me the epitome of a love/hate relationship. The author is exceedingly wordy at times, perhaps even flowery. But the message of the book was an incredibly timely one for my soul and the current season of my life. He gracefully reminds us, especially pastors, of our humanity. We are embodied souls with God-given limitations, and this is a good thing. Grateful to have read it...

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