Book Review: Pastor, Jesus Is Enough, by Jeremy Writebol


Jeremy Writebol, Pastor, Jesus Is Enough: Hope for the Weary, the Burned Out, and the Broken. Lexham Press, 2023. 184 pages.


Picture several pastors gathered around a conference table to talk about church ministry. One pastor asks the group for ideas about an upcoming sermon series, specifically to unify the church during a season of transition.

You’d expect to hear several suggestions of biblical books well-suited to building unity. You might even hear a pastor suggest with a wry smile that any biblical book would be good for that task. Others might share about a topical series they once preached and what worked well. But I doubt many pastors would suggest teaching through Revelation 2–3.

But that’s what Jeremy Writebol suggested.

Writebol serves as a campus pastor for Woodside Bible Church. He’s also the executive director of Gospel-Centered Discipleship. In his recent book Pastor, Jesus Is Enough, he explains why he saw benefits to preaching part of the book of Revelation. Writebol explains, “Each of these letters identified a specific caution that Jesus would give to the churches and a way forward for them. It was a perfect series to call us to greater fidelity as a church and faithfulness in avoiding moral, theological, and methodological drift” (4).

So that’s what his church did. Its pastors preached through the letters to the churches, and their labors bore fruit.

After the fact, however, Writebol believed he had missed a crucial detail—one that inspired his new book. He described it this way: “I failed to account for one thing in my recollection of the content of Revelation 2–3: the pastors” (4).


He means that he understands the greeting to the “messenger” of each church—or the “angel” of each church, as it is in most English translations—to refer to the pastor of each church. So the greeting in Revelation 2:1, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus,” is actually a greeting to the pastor of the church in Ephesus. And so on for the other six cities. Writebol is convinced that “Jesus isn’t just speaking to some guardian angel or that the stars and the angels are a spiritualized reference to the church. Plainly, the angel is a messenger, a pastor” (6).

In Pastors, Jesus Is Enough, Writebol mentions that this is the understanding of others, adding “notably Peter Leithart,” and includes a footnote to a commentary by Leithart. Writebol, however, does not give much of the argumentation for this interpretation. Given the centrality of this point to the book, I might have appreciated a bit more of the rationale. But even if you don’t buy the interpretation that angelos means pastor in Revelation 2–3, all pastors are still church members who need this passage applied to them.

Applying this Scripture to myself—with the blazing warmth of its encouragement and the two-edged sting of its rebuke—caused me to see afresh what Jesus desires for his churches and pastors.

To give one example, hear the way this encouragement pops if we understand that the words directly address the pastor: “I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary” (Rev. 2:3).

To hear that the risen and reigning Jesus sees and hears and knows the way pastors patiently persevere should encourage the most ragged minister. In a similar but opposite way, hear the sizzle of this rebuke if we understand it directed at the pastor: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (2:4).


Many readers of Christian books, even those who love the Bible the way pastors do, probably won’t admit it out loud, but they tend to skip over an author’s epigraphs and large block quotes of Scripture. But the small pivot to see the recipient of the letter as a pastor caused me to read each quotation of Scripture with fresh zeal. I found myself repeatedly writing in the margins and underlining phrases not merely of Writebol’s words but the words of Revelation, and reading each epigraph slowly and reflectively.

The book’s structure is what you might expect: seven central chapters, one chapter for each city-church pastor, along with an introduction and conclusion focusing on Revelation 1 and 4, respectively. When I saw this was the structure and subject of the book, I expected that despite the warm promise of its title, the book would devolve into dry commentary. Far from it.

To be clear, Writebol includes many insights about Scripture that resemble those you might read in a commentary, but he consistently employs the insights toward sermonic and devotional applications, both those of comfort and challenge. In this way, each chapter reads like a plenary message at an epic nine-session pastors’ conference. Writebol aims the hortatory subjunctives that end each chapter directly at pastors (“Let us . . .”).


Throughout the book, Writebol also tells readers of his own struggles in pastoral ministry, including a season of deep discouragement over a church split where half of his congregation left. When the worship music began the week following the split, less than ten people had arrived on time.

In another place, he transparently recounts a rough annual review. His wife then told him that she agreed with the critical comments from the church leadership, namely, that he was a good pastor but thought far too highly of himself and his ministry.

To recount stories like this, Writebol must not only believe that Jesus is enough for pastors, but that Jesus is enough for him.

There are certainly many books that explore the challenges of pastoral ministry—the burnout, the anxiety, the cultural temptations to compromise—but many recent books get to these topics through topical exploration via an emotional and psychological “best practice” approach. That’s not necessarily wrong; we pastors need all the help we can get. I do, however, appreciate that Writebol explores the challenges of ministry from an exegetical launch pad. In this way, even as he instructs readers on how to pastor well, he models what pastors should be doing each week: exegeting Scripture and applying it to hearts.


I should acknowledge that, over the last few years, Jeremy and I have served in different roles for the same organization. Some might say this inclines me to be less than neutral about his book. Perhaps, but I have several pastor acquaintances who have written books, even books about pastoral ministry—and yet Pastor, Jesus Is Enough is the one book I’m going to strongly recommend our pastor-elder team reads and discusses together this fall.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares, pastors need a constant reminder that Jesus is enough.

Benjamin Vrbicek

Benjamin Vrbicek is a teaching pastor at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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