Book Reviews

Book Review: Running on Empty (Barbara Bancroft)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog (at no cost to you). 

Barbara Bancroft has been a pastor’s wife for umpteen years, she has been a missionary in Ireland with her husband for almost 10 years, and they have lived in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Philly, etc., etc. Those very different contexts have given her many opportunities for to live out the gospel. People fight, and they need the gospel. Spouses argue. They need the gospel to work in their lives. Cultures clash, and the gospel is needed for mercy, patience, endurance, trust.

Somewhere in their 40s (or 50s?), the Bancrofts sold their house to raise support for missions in Ireland (again(. During that time they lived out of a suitcase in hotels and in different people’s homes. You can feel the frustration at how slowly life can go. “We’re doing missions work for you Lord. Why can’t we raise more money? Why are we still scratching the bottom of the barrel? Why do people treat us as insignificant” Or, after returning from Ireland and hoping to buy a house, “Why it is taking so long to find a house? Why have we been outbid again? God, we’ve done all this for you? Can’t you help a girl out?”

Those aren’t exact quotes, but we can relate. We serve in our churches, we fight sin, and then something else happens and another burden is put on us. Bancroft points out flaws in the church without denying the church as a whole. People are sinners. This isn’t hard to see. But Jesus is at work in our lives in both the upbeats and in the beatdowns. So you fight sin, you work with arrogant co-workers, and then you go to church and expect rest as you worship the Lord with his people—only to be utterly disappointed as people critique you for the way you (or your husband) do ministry. Or perhaps they ask sincere but unthoughtful questions like “When are you going to teach your kids not to do X“ or “When are you going to get married?” or fill in the blank.

Why even bother with these people?

Bancroft’s manages to succinctly capture the real challenges of women in ministry in a warm and humorous way without diminishing the pain and the challenges of facing such situations. She deftly draw out gospel implications in each situation in with new perspectives and new angles. Her examples are down to earth, good, and have actually happened. She doesn’t use “good stories” or illustrations of situations that haven’t even happened. Because of that, she shows new implications of what the gospel means in specific situations that are different from what you often hear. She tells you how disappointed she gets when people don’t come through in the way you hoped. She then reminds you that you do the same thing, and Christ forgives you. And he still works through you and compels you to live out the gospel and trust him, even in the midst of discouragement.

Each chapter is split in half. She brings up a problem and some solutions, then has you read a Bible passage and think through some questions. She then talks about the gospel-implications of the issue at hand. And in ministry, there are many issues at hand. In both hands. Though I am neither a pastor’s wife or a women, I found the book enjoyable and easy to read. Besides a few “cheesy” lines, it was a pretty solid book centered around the gospel that saves us and grows us to be more like Christ. Jesus ministered to hard-hearted disciples, and he continues to walk with us. He has called you to a ministry. Continue to walk with those people too as he walks with you. (Read a sample.)


Find it on Amazon and New Growth Press!

Disclosure: I own the book. These are my opinions. I was not required to write a review, let alone a positive one. But this book is pretty cool, so I thought I ought to write something. 

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