Book Review: Muscle and a Shovel

When I volunteered to write this book review, I had just finished reading the book and had ordered two more copies.  As I write this, I don’t actually have the book to reference because we gave away all of our copies (we ordered nine more copies today), so this is probably going to be more of a “convincing argument for reading the book” rather than a “book review.”

Muscle and a Shovel, by Michael Shank, is a 386 page paperback book, published June 1, 2011. This book tells the true story of a man who is going about his normal life, working a normal job, hoping for normal things. One day, his normal life is turned upside down when his co-worker, Randall, asks him a simple question. From that point on, Mike and his wife begin a trek down a completely different road than expected.

Mike begins to question what he has always been taught about God and the Bible. He begins talking to friends and relatives and religious experts in his life. He struggles to support what he had always known, and he hopes they will give him some direction. Without satisfactory answers, he goes back to Randall, who guides him back to the Bible at every turn.

Over the course of several months, Mike and Randall’s friendship develops into one of love and trust as they have early morning discussions and Bible studies (usually accompanied by Krispy Kreme donuts). Mike’s emotions are so strong. Sometimes, he shows anger at what he had always believed, awe at the love and gentleness that Randall shows him, and excitement as he tells his wife about all that he learns.

From the very first chapter, this book had me gripped and I couldn’t wait to keep reading.  This would have been one of those books that I would have stayed up all night to finish, except for the fact that I had to share it with my husband.  I was thankful each time he stopped reading to get a drink so that I could swoop in and start reading again.  I wanted to find out what was going to happen next, what answers he was going to get, what his reaction would be, how Randall would handle Mike’s questions.

This book truly is a journey. It is a wonderful story, packed with hundreds of Bible verses to read and a lot of dialogue between characters. I loved it because I could relate to Mike and the emotions he had as he learned more and more from God’s word. I loved it because I could relate to Randall. His example is one that I hope to emulate. I truly believe that this could be one of the greatest evangelistic tools of this century. It can reach where other tools cannot. Using this tool would be very similar to Nathan the Prophet’s method of teaching King David in 2 Samuel 12. Using a third person story, like that of the ewe lamb, can help someone understand Bible teachings from the outside looking in.

If I could only have one other book besides the Bible, this would be my choice.

By Heidi Sprouse
Heidi Sprouse is proud to be the wife of Steven, the preacher for the Rocky Ford church of Christ, in Rocky Ford, Colorado.  They homeschool their two children, Hannah and Caleb. Heidi enjoys taking care of her family, teaching Bible classes, and working as a secretary for the local school district.

Erynn Sprouse

Erynn and her husband, Jeremy serve with the Patrick Street church of Christ in Dublin, TX . Her husband is the pulpit minister and evangelist. Erynn is a stay at home, homeschooling mom to their five young warriors-in-training. They are 2003 graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Erynn is the Editor and general buck-stopper for Come Fill Your Cup.
  • Jennifer Jensen

    Great review, Heidi – I can’t wait to find this book and read it too!! Thank you, my friend!

  • Evie Graber

    Ooooo! Thanks for this, Heidi…I’m going to buy it! Except I may get two so I won’t have to take turns with the hubs. 😉

  • Melissa Burkham

    I agree with Jennifer, can’t wait to locate the book & read it. Great article.

  • Sandi Rog

    Great review! Thank you, Heidi! Right now, I’m doing a giveaway on my blog for this book!

  • Jennifer Hahn

    Where can I get a copy?

  • Heidi Sprouse
  • Heidi Sprouse

    We got ours on Amazon with free shipping, but the author sells it here also. Thanks for all of the comments everyone. I’m so excited for you all to read it and pass it on!

  • Michael Shank

    Dear Heidi,

    I just read your review of my book and I am humbled to the point that words cannot express. Your accurate summary combined with your love and encouraging words gives me great strength. My family and I are grateful that you’ve taken your time to share this work with others. I truly hope and fervently pray that those who read it will be touched, as you have. Please feel free to write anytime to my direct email address, which is If you have friends, family, readers, or congregations that would like to order multiple copies, I have volume discounts, and any profit generated goes back into this work and the spreading of the gospel. In Him with Love and Thankfulness, your bro, Michael Shank