Martin Bucer (1491-1551) led the Reformation in Strasbourg for over twenty-five years, and during his time there produced this manual on pastoral theology in which he aimed to help God’s children during a difficult historical period. Although it was published in 1538, this Banner hardback edition of 240 pages is the first time it has appeared in English, having been translated by Peter Beale, a retired pastor living in England. The late Professor David Wright provided an historical introduction.
The first half of the book considers the nature of the church, the rule of Christ over it, and the requirements expected of those who serve him as pastors, elders and deacons. Bucer’s method is to take several important Bible passages connected to each of the above topics and explain these texts.
He follows the same method in the remainder of the book in which he explains how such shepherds are to care for Christ’s sheep. Christ’s sheep are usually in one of five categories: lost (unconverted), straying (backsliding), inwardly injured, weak in faith or healthy. Because there is such a variety of cases, it is inevitable that pastoral ministry in a congregation will be extensive. Bucer gives an extensive chapter to each of these conditions, and in each provides biblical instruction regarding how such cases should be dealt with.
These five categories will be found in each of our congregations and this translation of Bucer’s manual will be of great help to any church leaders who will consult it. It is evident that pastoral care is very demanding, and sometimes the size of the task can be so daunting that shepherds are drained even before they begin attempting to help the sheep of Christ. Bucer’s book gives straightforward, biblical counsel to those engaged in this essential aspect of healthy church life.