*Originally posted on the Preacher's Pen on May 31, 2015
Have you ever been using a shovel and all of a sudden it just breaks?
Shovels are designed to dig...and usually dig as deep as necessary. Sometimes the handles are wooden, sometimes aluminum, sometimes some other form of metal. The blade can be round, spade shaped, and even square...depending on the purpose needed of the use.
Shovels are man made. They are not indestructible. They simply can...and sometimes will break.
I just finished reading "When Shovels Break" by Michael J. Shank this morning. I remember reading the first chapter of this book as a preview just over a year ago when Mike put a blip on the Muscle and a Shovel Facebook page. It certainly grabbed my attention.
Muscle and a Shovel was written as a true story of a couple's journey to finding the truth. When I read this book, my personal views of how to approach evangelism changed immensely. I learned a lot from this sometimes "heart-wrenching" story. It was a great story...and needed to be told!
Shortly after reading the book, I had the privilege to meet Mike and Jonetta. Meeting the "characters" of this book was truly a blessing. Mike and I became pretty good friends via a lot of online conversations, sharing spiritual blessings and challenges, and by being a "central distribution" point of the book in the area in which we live with many requesting bulk orders.
When you get to know someone who is in the church, there is always common ground to work with. We certainly had some common ground; yet, I never could understand completely what inspired Mike to write his story. I think now that I have read the "sequel", it is much clearer to me that the purpose of Muscle and a Shovel was to be a precursor to even a much deeper story as is found in "When Shovels Break."
The book - well, just like it's predecessor, it is a very easy and quick read. Mike's writing style is "down to earth." He does not use long words, or lengthy thoughts. He does use a lot of scripture, and for that I am indeed thankful. The story...I had heard much of the first four of five chapters through attending speaking engagements where Mike had spoken, as well as our communications online. It made sense. It starts right where Muscle leaves off - two young Christians seeking to find their place in the world.
About a third of the way through, a pretty intense storyline breaks. I can't say much more about that in this blog or it will be too much of a spoiler to not read the book. John - the character of the story - has hit some pretty rough spots in his life. He had run into a brick wall in his faith, family, finances, and future. He didn't know what to do any longer.
The story continues on with many more words and chapters after the revealing of John's challenges, shaping a way of repentance not only for his own life, but a design that is found in the words of the Bible of how anyone who falls away from the church can find their way home.
I gave this book a 4 star rating on Amazon - short one because of editorial errors :) - and it is certainly worth your time to read.
I do NOT recommend this book for those who have not obeyed the gospel, or are living in a religious state of confusion (i.e., denominational doctrines, false teachings, etc.). I do NOT recommend this to even a novice Christian - unless they have indeed found themselves wayward yet so soon. I DO, however, recommend this book to every Christian that will take the time to read it. The book is an absolute MUST for those that have fallen away from the church and need to find their way.
Mike told me that this was going to be an intense story. He was right. It opened my eyes to some pretty sad situations, some challenges in the church, and certainly my own spirituality in growth and need.
I am proud to call Mike my brother in Christ...and friend. We aren't so close now because of many reasons, including the success of the first book demanding so much time and energy of the human time table, as well as all of the projects that came shortly after with the workbooks, translations, audio book, and so on; however, as I read this book, knowing Mike the way I do, it brought tears to my eyes, as well as gave me a better grasp on who the man is that we know as Michael J. Shank.
May God continue to bless many with the works that "Mr. Mike" has produced, and may others be as bold to share their story of conversion, and stories of how to help the lost.
Both Muscle and a Shovel and When Shovels Break can be found online at either Amazon.com or MichaelShankMinistries.com. If you cannot afford to purchase the book, or feel that you would like to read it but cannot justify paying for the book, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best to reach out to some anonymous donors to get you a Kindle copy or a paperback.