2 out of 4 stars
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Pastoring is not what you think by Elijah Oladimeji is a series of fictionalized stories based on the author's experience as a pastor, called Job in the text, and his efforts to tend to his flock, deal with controversial issues including immigration and the usage of the Internet, convince his wife Lorraine that he does not need therapy, find the money to keep both his church and family afloat, and more.
By the title, I assumed that this was going to focus on the parts of the job of a pastor that few people outside of the religious community think of - such as answering difficult questions about topics not covered in the Bible, e.g. gun violence, addiction, PTSD, and more, or developing new techniques to reach out to more people via the Internet. Instead, it is a set of fictionalized stories about different events in the life of Pastor Job, including his struggles to pay the rent, trying to help a man being sent back to Mexico because the man's mother brought him to the U.S. illegally when he was a child, and Pastor Job's own questions about gun laws. I admit, the difference between what I expected to read and what I ended up reading meant I enjoyed the book less than others might.
I had high hopes when I started this as the prologue had Pastor Job mumbling about gun violence and gun laws in his sleep. Pastor Job is clearly someone who cares deeply about controversial issues and wants to make the world a safer place, but this is not really discussed later in the book, leaving the prologue unfinished, in a sense, as he never applies his stance to a real life circumstance within his church or in the church of a fellow pastor. The unfinished nature of this anecdote is also present in other sections of the book. There is a brief mention of the death of a fellow pastor and how Pastor Job and another pastor are going to visit the widow, but the visit itself is not included nor is the pastor mentioned in the narrative prior to his death. While wishing to respect the widow's privacy is admirable, a section on how to deal with grief for a religious person would have been very interesting, especially in the context of faith being shaken.
Out of the various stories within the book, the story of Pablo Rodriguez, who is deported back to Mexico for being an illegal immigrant, even though he was brought to the U. S. as a child by his mother, highlights some interesting points about Pastor Job's relationship with God. When Pablo calls him, Job mainly offers a quick prayer. Pablo protests that the one prayer was not enough, based on Pablo's memories of his grandmother praying for hours at a time. Job brushes that concern off very quickly rather than engage Pablo in a discussion about prayer and faith, which might have reassured Pablo. Pastor Job also has to be prodded by Lorraine to use something other than prayer to help Pablo. She is the one who searches the Internet for other resources for Pablo, including three groups who could advocate for him. Job does write an email to each, but he only did these actions after Lorraine's prodding. Job seemed to expect God to take care of everything, without using the resources available. When Pablo writes later to tell Job that after being deported to Mexico, Pablo was able to use his fluency in English to get a job and build a better life for himself in Mexico, Job claims this all came from God, not acknowledging Pablo's determination to live a better life. Isn't this a case of "God helps those who help themselves." ?
Pastor Job has a similar attitude to paying the rent - he never offers his landlord reassurance or apologies when he cannot pay the rent for two months nor does he go looking for a loan to pay the rent, he just expects God to provide the money somehow.
Compare this to his attitude about his wife asking for a new car - he keeps reminding her that she will get the car via God. When his mother-in-law calls and mentions that she does not need Job to buy a car for her, since she got paid for her work with the homeless, Job does not consider whether this is God's way of indicating Lorraine will get her car faster if she helps others. Couldn't he have suggested that Lorraine could do something to help the community so she could focus on something else?
The editing on the book is not the best, with most of the grammatical issues being quotation marks not being applied correctly, e.g. missing at the start of a statement continued after an action or including the action within the quotes. Early on one sentence is missing a word which makes it an incomplete confusing statement, a random line is partially italicized, and Job's wife is identified as Lorrain instead of Lorraine one time, even though whenever it occurs again on that same page it is spelled correctly.
Overall, this was not the book for me. A more religious reader or someone interested in personal narratives that include religious themes would probably be the target demographic of this book.
I rate Pastoring is not what you think by Elijah Oladimeji 2 out of 4 stars.
Pastoring is not what you think
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