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Posted by Jane Tooher, 4 Oct 2019

Jane Tooher reviews John Benton's book on 2 Timothy and resilience in Christian leadership

Book cover of Resilient
RESILIENT: How 2 Timothy Teaches us to Bounce Back in Christian Leadership
John Benton
Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2018 153pp £6.99pb ISBN: 9781527102101

One of the great strengths of Resilient is that it has a narrow focus. John Benton takes the book of 2 Timothy and sees what it has to say to male Christian leaders about resilience in ministry. He makes clear his book is not a commentary, nor does he seek to deal with every doctrinal truth that Paul writes about. Rather he wants to answer what 2 Timothy “has to say about finding strength, recovering from discouragement and keeping going as a Christian leader.” In this way, Benton characterises a resilient pastor as: “called to the work; crucified to self; confident in God’s grace; clear as to his priorities; conscious of his limitations; cared for by companions; and candid with a praying church.”

Anyone in vocational ministry for some time recognises how essential it is to be resilient. In 2 Timothy, we see that the apostle Paul was resilient to the very end of his life, and that he urges Timothy to follow his pattern of ministry (2 Tim 3:1–14; 4:1–8). Because each of Benton’s seven chapters work through subsequent sections of 2 Timothy, covering all of Paul’s final letter, this keeps the content of Resilient focussed on God’s achievements through Christ, not the pastor’s own abilities, and therefore on God’s grace.

This focus on God’s grace is the greatest strength of Benton’s book. It serves to help the reader have a realistic view of self, be refreshed, and to respond in prayer, confession, and thankfulness to God. It will also help some readers change the way they do life and ministry, with a greater dependence on God, resulting in them being more joyful, confident, and content in their ministry situation, and thus more resilient. This dependence on God’s grace shows itself throughout the book by the acceptance of the gifts God has given to us, such as Scripture, prayer, and relationships with other Christians.

Resilient is a book full of grace and hope for Christian leaders, that helps them have a God-centred thankfulness, and remember again (or maybe for the first time) the privilege and joy it is to be in vocational ministry. Each chapter ends with a helpful exercise, aimed at getting the reader to reflect on certain aspects of their ministry, and so grow in self-awareness.

Benton wrote Resilient for male leaders in vocational ministry, but as a female leader in vocational ministry there was much that I appreciated and learnt from his book, and I plan to return to it from time to time. It is a very accessible book in both language and length, and is ideal to be read personally, or in a group with others in vocational ministry.

Jane Tooher lectures in Ministry and Church History at Moore Theological College, Sydney and is Director of the Priscilla and Aquila Centre.

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