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Book Review: Love Big, Be Well

October 2, 2017
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Hi Friends! I don’t usually post book reviews, but this is special because I am so proud of my dear friend and former pastor Winn Collier for this beautifully written volume:

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town ChurchLove Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church by Winn Collier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier made my heart happy, and I highly recommend it to readers who are hungry for a break from big church clichés and over-promising certainties.

The book’s premise is that a pastor returns to the ministry after some time away working a secular job and accepts a position with a small town congregation, the fictional Granby Presbyterian Church. The book is a series of occasional letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock over the course of six years as he gets to know them, grows to love them deeply, and walks through life with them. He shares his thoughts about God, his experiences with God, and how his beloved faith community can rest in God’s love.

Never preachy, Collier gives Jonas a tender tone, portraying him as a humble, very human man of God who conveys wisdom and truth even while he confesses his own struggles, doubts, and failures. He never sets himself above his parishioners and is never paternalistic or patronizing. He is refreshingly honest while underplaying his own dogged faith and servant leadership example. I was captivated and found sentences and paragraphs in nearly every letter to highlight, notate, ponder, apply to myself, and remember.

I was extra excited to read this book, because I recently moved to a small town myself. I have been struggling to adjust my perspective away from my university-town consumeristic “find a church that meets my needs” mentality. This book wasn’t really written to solve that problem for me, but it was well worth reading for so many other reasons. I think the people who might most benefit from reading it are weary pastors, from any size church. There is so much peace and rest offered within its pages.

At numerous points throughout this book, I thought, “I would love to have a pastor like that.” There is a point at which Collier has Jonas say, “I write because I want to pay attention to the life happening around me.” This, and many other statements, convince me that this Jonas character is very much a manifestation of the author’s own thinking and personality. Actually, I did have a pastor like that before I moved away from Virginia. I was blessed to be a member of All Souls Charlottesville, where Collier shepherds his flock with the same tender wisdom. I miss him and that church terribly.

Here are just a few of the gems I highlighted as I read:

“Too much pastoral leadership literature recirculates anxious efforts to make the church significant or influential or up-to-date. I think my job is to remind the church that she already is something.”

“God’s making something beautiful out of you; don’t short-circuit that by trying to mimic someone else’s beauty.”

“Relax. Prayer is not something we accomplish; it’s something we enter. It’s pretty darn hard to do prayer wrong.”

“Some of us hide who we truly are, afraid that we’ll be shunned or that someone will try to ‘fix’ us (or worse, instruct us).”

There is so much more I could share, but I’ll leave the rest for readers to discover at their own pace when they are ready for it. That’s another practice I learned from this good author.

***Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book by publisher in exchanged for an honest review.***

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