The twelve essays explore different aspects of pastoral ministry and invite pastors to review crucial areas of Christian service in their ministries. Melvin Tinker begins with a chapter on the pastor and the Word of God in which he deals with how a pastor uses the Bible to feed his own soul and to feed his congregation in corporate and individual ways. Much of this chapter is based on Richard Baxter’s classic book, The Reformed Pastor. It is inevitable that a pastor must have fresh food for his own soul and for those who have to listen to him.
The next chapter is by Peter Lewis and he considers the prayer life of the pastor. Most pastors would admit that they have a real struggle with prayer and this reviewer was encouraged by reading that even Andrew Bonar, who is generally regarded as having excelled in this discipline, confessed that he never went to prayer without a struggle with the flesh. Lewis mentions some helpful practices connected to personal prayer, both from his own methods and from the writings of others. Among other matters he looks at some hindrances to prayer, the benefits of Trinitarian prayer, and ways of persisting in prayer.
Steve Timmis and Tim Chester discuss the place of theology in the life of a pastor. He needs to reflect theologically on contemporary issues and also to protect his congregation from false ideas. Yet I found most helpful the comment that he needs to remember that theology in pastoral situations is usually straightforward – those with whom he will interact are sinners needing the grace of the Saviour, and that is not complicated theology.
The fourth chapter is by Peter Adam and he focuses on the pastor as a preacher. His focus is not on preparing sermons but preparing preachers, both on a preacher individually and on how he trains others for future ministry. After all, an individual can prepare a decent sermon but fail to prepare himself for preaching it. He mentions fifteen aspects of necessary preparation from Paul’s instructions to Timothy, but, as you can imagine, there is not space here to list them, so you will need to get a copy of the book to find out what they are.
Three chapters look at aspects of pastoral ministry that have some overlap. Paul Williams explains how a pastor can engage in and organise evangelism in his congregation; Frank Retief writes about aspects of church planting he met with through his own congregation in South Africa; and David Holloway gives some thought to church growth, especially within an Anglican context.
Three other chapters give interesting insights into areas of ministry which will not involve every pastor. John Risbridger gives details about ministering to students out of his experience as pastor of a church in a university city, John Stevens looks at gospel partnerships across denominations, and Gerald Bray reflects on being an evangelical in the Anglican church (which will help those on the outside understand what it is like to be an evangelical pastor in a mixed denomination).
Two chapters that are very helpful are one by Don Carson on the pastor leading public worship and one by J. I. Packer on the pastor and infant baptism. Carson works his way through twelve features of biblical worship, and inevitably a pastor must ask himself if he is helping or hindering those features. Packer deals succinctly with a topic that sometimes Presbyterian pastors are embarrassed about, although I cannot see why. After all, as Packer makes clear, infant baptism is an obvious biblical practice.
This volume covers a great deal of ground. Obviously it does not deal with each topic in great depth; for that to happen, we would need twelve books and not just twelve chapters. The book does not say anything new, but it does bring us back to what is basic in pastoral ministry. It certainly reminded me of my responsibilities and would do the same for any who will read it.