Pastoral Ministry Book Round-Up

I recently completed a seminary course in Pastoral Ministry, where we were assigned five books to read. I thought I’d offer a brief review of each here:

Called to the Ministry by Edmund Clowney

This little 90-page handbook treats extensively the subject of calling. Clowney, former president of Westminster Theological Seminary, was one of the strongest proponents of the “biblical theology” movement in 20th Century America, and is always so helpful when looking to place a given passage in the flow o redemptive history. As expected, this book brings the entire canon to bear on the subject of calling, with keen insight that I would not expect to find anywhere else. The book is also immensely practical; Clowney clearly loves the church, and urges readers young and old to be about the work of serving the church. There are three basic parts to the book 1) All Christians are called by God 2) All Christians are called to serve God in his Church, and 3) The distinctive call to Christian ministry. One of the most memorable portions of the book was Clowney’s insistence that we discern our calling by actually getting our hands dirty in service, not waiting for some mystical manifestation, but eagerly volunteering our time and talents. I recommend this book.

The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson

I already knew by the author’s name on the front that this book would be solid, biblically sound, and thought-provoking. Dr. Carson lays a solid theological foundation for thinking about the Christian ministry through straight-forward expositions of five passages in 1 Corinthians. Carson’s uncanny ability to walk through the most difficult of texts gives this book a far broader appeal than simply as a tool about Christian ministry. It should be on the shelf of anyone working through 1 Corinthians as a clearly written, highly valuable commentary.

Dear Timothy, ed. Tom Ascol

I was probably most excited about reading this book, because I knew the format and the contributors. Dear Timothy is a collection of twenty “letters” written by present-day pastors to a fictional young pastor named Timothy who has recently begun his first pastorate. The chapters cover a wide variety of pastoral issues, beyond the standard topics of personal integrity and expository preaching. The contributors of Dear Timothy also address the importance of a life of study, seeking revival, memorizing Scripture, and planting yourself in one place. The broad scope of the book uncovered some areas that I have either not thought through nearly enough or have been neglecting. It is as if twenty time-tested pastors are waiting to challenge and encourage you in specific, practical areas of pastoral ministry. I agree with my professor who commented that C.J. Mahaney’s chapter on cultivating humility is worth the price of the book. I had to read through this fairly quickly to meet the course requirements, but plan to go back and review several of the chapters.

The Star Book for Ministers by Edward Hiscox

This “little black book” is something of an old standard in Baptists circles, first published in the late nineteenth century. Hiscox briefly walks through several of the pastor’s responsibilities, provides outlines of traditional funeral and wedding services, and then devotes a large portion of the book to biblical texts which are appropriate for a variety of ministerial situations. You never know how much something like this could come in handy. I probably would not have bought it on my own, but I’m glad I have it now.

The New Guidebook for Pastors by James Bryant and Mac Brunson

This recently published book (2007) is a pastor’s guidebook covering a variety of issues in pastoral ministry. It is written from the perspective of two men who have spent decades pastoring in the Southern Baptist Convention. This was what struck me as the unique contribution of this book as I read it alongside the others already mentioned. They offered insights along the way from some of the key Southern Baptist pastors of the past like W.A. Criswell and George Truett. Also, they had both ministered in church settings much larger than my own, so I was let in on a different perspective there as well. Though I differed with them at a few places along the way, I appreciate how candidly both the authors spoke throughout the book.

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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