"This weekend I finally read Jeff Berryman’s “Leaving Ruin” and I am urging everybody to read it. In my dark distant past I pastored a church straight out of seminary. It was the most enriching, rewarding and life-threatening experience of my life. Berryman captures all that in more in this tale of a pastor with a rich inner life and a tad too much honestly, who is about to be voted out of his church. Read it and weep."I also read this book about a year ago and did a review of it for Amazon and thought I would share it with you. I'll preface my Amazon review by affirming what I said when I wrote it last August - this is still at the top of my list of novels you ought to read if you are a pastor or member of a church. Not because it's a literary classic, but because its a portrayal of church, life and ministry in the real world, not the idealized world so many of us long for. So, to encourage you to read it, please keep reading for my Amazon review.
The life of a small church pastor, August 5, 2003
Reviewer: David T. Wayne from Glen Burnie, MD United States
Annie Dillard's words on the back cover sold me on this novel right away. She says this: "Jeffy Berryman has taken an evangelical preacher, and turned him into the most unexpected thing: a human being."
As an "evangelical preacher," who is all too human I had to read it and I am glad I did. It has immediately jumped into the upper echelon of my favorite novels.
This is a story of a preacher and a church. It is mostly about the preacher, but it gives a good glimpse into the life of a small town church. Churches can be places of amazing grace, and there are some incidents depicted in this book that vividly portray this amazing grace. Churches can also be places of unimaginable cruelty, and this book gives some realistic pictures of some of the hurts that happen in a church.
But the main story is about the preacher. Cyrus Manning is a study in paradoxes, pardoxes that most preachers can understand. He is desperately in love with Jesus and desperately wants to experience Him, yet most often Jesus feels far away. He longs to be holy, while at the same time he wrestles with longings to lust after everything in a skirt. He loves his wife deeply yet has a very difficult time communicating with her. He loves his children, yet struggles with how to raise them. And, he loves his church very much, yet at times hates what the church does to him.
Many pastors will read this book and relate to it. They will understand the struggles that Cyrus goes through. Many church members will read this and appreciate the struggles of their pastors like never before.
I predict some will hate this book. Many pastors think they are beyond the wandering eye, the vengeful thoughts, or an occasional outburst of profanity. To them, Cyrus will be an example of a man who is double-minded and unfit for service in the kingdom.
Others, who are church members will hate the book also because Cyrus definitely doesn't fit their idea of what a pastor should be. Cyrus is certainly not on anyone's pedestal. Most folks want a pastor who has his act together and it is obvious as you read this book that Cyrus has many struggles.
I am not suggesting that Cyrus is a model to which modern pastors should seek to attain, I am saying that he is a model of what many of us are. Many of us have similar struggles and we desperately need Jesus the way that Cyrus does. In that sense, this book may help validate the struggles of many in the ministry.
There are plenty of charlatans out there, and it is tempting to assume that all pastors are quacks, based on the examples of a few. The fact is that most pastors are trying their best to follow Jesus and shepherd the flock. Sometimes we do well and often we fail miserably. Cyrus gives a good example of a pastor who tries his best, fails miserably, yet still finds God in the midst of his failures.
The great thing about this book is that it shows that there is something greater than ministerial success - knowing Jesus. Sometimes we need to fail in our ministry to succeed in knowing Jesus.