A pious debut account of a church split that focuses mostly on devotional guidance.
Estes chronicles, in broad strokes, what her church went through after its pastor abruptly left before a Sunday service. The first chapter sets up the book as a kind of memoir, seemingly preparing the reader for a narrative focused on the struggle following the pastor’s departure. Estes does provide the basic storyline of what led to a split in the church body, but provides very little detail about the specifics of what happened. At times, it may be difficult for readers to understand the gravity of some situations, because the separation itself never comes into focus; readers never hear churchgoers talk about what they missed when their leadership left, for example. The book does use cutting language at times: “A church split is an entertaining spectacle to the outside world. They point fingers and wag heads as they smirk and claim our standards are no different and we’re just a gathering of lying charlatans.” However, more concrete examples would have made the work more powerful. Estes mentions that the pastor was her personal friend, and opens the book with some of their correspondence, but she doesn’t evoke the emotional aspects of the story for readers. If the book gave the parade of substitute preachers a bit more space, it might have at least provided some comic relief. Instead, the book tends to focus on ways that readers can be good Christians; for instance, at one point, Estes compiles a list of Jesus’ behaviors in the New Testament and urges readers to follow in his footsteps (and later, to avoid what he avoids). The author writes lucidly and candidly about faith, but these passages feel like well-trod territory, and distract from the more intriguing story of the crisis in her church.
A book that delivers didactic sermons instead of an evocative story.