Expendable For God: Seventy Years In Christian Ministry, by Pedro Gutiérrez
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
As is likely the case with many potential readers of this book, I had never heard of the author before. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for the author does not make himself to be the center of his story. Indeed, the author’s point in writing about himself at all was to praise the way that God had worked through him as a missionary in Colombia and other places. This particular book does a good job at showing the context of an evangelical minister in Central and South America dealing with the hostility between Evangelical Protestantism and Catholicism and the struggle that is required to prepare leadership in areas where morality can be lacking. This book is a short one (less than 100 pages) but it has a lot of worthwhile discussion here, and the author sounds like someone it would have been wonderful to know, even if one doesn’t have the chance. Rather than an egocentric autobiography, this book is a thoughtful example of what happens when the actions of someone and the inspiration behind it take center stage and not the ego of the author.
This book is organized in a strange way, and its unusual organization helps make it a compelling book. The first part of the book consists of the author talking about his experiences starting out in the ministry marrying, raising a family with his wife, then remarrying after he was widowed, and moving from place to place encouraging and building new congregations. The author’s tension between having to find local leadership within the new churches and the need to defend the integrity of the gospel message and God’s ways is something that definitely shines through here, as well as the way that some people were inspired to live in a more godly way when it came time for them to preach about certain aspects of God’s laws. After this there is a second part that contains a supplementary biography about the author by Jim Smyth that adds material that was not included by the author. And after this comes a series of touching tributes from people who knew the author closely, including his family, which added to the general excellence of the book, in a way that puts it along with the other books by this publisher on the effort of various missionaries.
There are a lot of elements here in this particular book that are worthwhile for the reader. The author discusses how it is difficult for people to marry outside of the Catholic Church, which leads many people to cohabit together and tends to harm the reputation of evangelicals in the absence of civil marriages in remote villages and small towns. The author certainly makes this book a compelling one, and he even manages to discuss marrying a much younger second wife in such a way that is dignified and honorable, with the expectation that he would not be criticized for doing so. The author comes off as a scholarly believer, but one who is absolutely committed to spreading the Gospel as he understood it to places where it was not well known and in working with others to keep congregations going after he had traveled on somewhere else. There is a real feel that the author’s experiences are not entirely unlike those of early missionaries in the first century Church of God, with the same struggle in dealing with others and in encouraging the growth of strong congregations.