Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As someone who is just getting started in being more involved in ministry, this book intrigued me in being for women who are involved in ministry. Early on the book deals with the misconceptions of the Proverbs 31 woman and how her example is often more guilt-producing than helpful. Then the author takes us back to the gospel itself and the importance of remembering all that God has done for us in Christ.
Throughout the book, over and over the author reminds us of who we are in Christ, who our dependence is to be on, and God being the One at work. We are not special because we are in ministry, rather God has taken the ordinary and works through us in spite of ourselves.
One of the topics covered is fairness, or the seeming lack thereof when it seems in ministry that we are obeying God and yet things are not going our way. We have the mindset that if we are obedient, God should bless us. “Our analysis of fairness is always comparative and biased by our limitations. Our humanity creates a weakness that only faith can overcome. When we judge what God is doing by what we can see rather than by what he has said, we easily come to an unrighteous conclusion: God is not good. He doesn’t care. God is not pleased with me. He isn’t acting fairly. God must not love me. We are convinced we know best and accuse God of being unfair because he isn’t doing what we want him to do. The daily battle for believers is to believe Scripture even when it conflicts with our expectations. The battle is lost when we draw insidious conclusions about God because of our biases and limited perspective. The resulting resentment and bitterness may seem directed at others but in truth they are directed toward God who, we believe, has somehow let us down and acted unfairly.”
Also looked at is entitlement – the feeling that since we have left so much for God, surely we are entitled to a few blessings as well. Then when it doesn’t happen, envy sets in. The author takes us to the heart of the matter: we are not letting the gospel be at work in us, reminding us the awful nature of sin and how much God despises it. The book continues to pound home the reality of letting the gospel continually be a part of our lives, throughout our days of ministry, reminding us that we still sin and we must constantly remind ourselves of the gospel. In order to better communicate the gospel to others, we must have it do its work in our own lives, humbling us before God and returning to Him for dependence.
This was not a self-help book for women in ministry, but rather a reminder of the need to let the gospel be the center of our lives. Even in ministry we must continually remind ourselves of our need for the gospel, making us rely on Christ and the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. What a timely reminder that it’s not about us, but about Christ. Giving up our reputations, our sense of entitlement and fairness, humbling relying on God moment by moment for the strength to minister. An excellent book focusing us on Christ and the immense gift He has given us in the gospel.
“Christian ministry is a hard place to have problems, but the solution is always the same. The gospel speaks to each of us where we are. There are no lost causes or hopeless cases with Christ….All of us will benefit from the encouragement we receive from friendships, books, and other resources, but no amount of human help will fill our emptiness if it does not lead us to Christ. His is the voice we need to hear.”
“The hardships of ministry expose the dark places of our hearts where the gospel has not yet penetrated. The Holy Spirit often uses life’s everyday occurrences to illuminate the dark corners where our sins lurk. As he reveals sins like entitlement and envy, it’s easy for us to despair or run away from the dark rebellion he has exposed. Hearing the truth about our sin is painful, but Jesus comes and binds our wounds with his forgiveness, bringing us hope that he can change us in ways that seem impossible in the chaos of ministry.”
“We die to ourselves so that others may find life in Christ. Forgiving those who harm and offend us is just one of the ways that we die to our rights so that Christ will be revealed through us. Laying down our lives voluntarily so that others may know Christ does not come easy or naturally to us either. It is only as we are filled with the treasure of Christ that our jars are not ground into dust by the opposition we face. This is why our experience of Christ must be fresh daily.”
“Having a realistic view of ourselves as sinners who need a Savior each day will keep us relying on his Spirit and address our hypocrisy. Seeing the work he does in us to make us more like Jesus will strengthen our faith.”
*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.