In the previous couple years, there has been a resurgence of ministry directed at those in full-time pastoral ministry. I have been blessed by many books and articles and conversations I have had with other pastors about their life and mine. My life certainly has been distinctly changed through these resources and conversations.
And now to add to all of this conversation is a new book by Jared C. Wilson, The Pastor's Justification. I have enjoyed Wilson as a writer and blogger for some time now. He writes with such gospel clarity that the reader is easily blessed. But if I were honest, my first reaction to hearing that he was writing a book directed at pastors was a bit on the skeptical side. I thought, "How old is he? How much pastoral experience does he really have? Can he really give advice on pastoral ministry when he appears to be the same age as I am and probably about the same amount of experience?" Now I'm not saying these were good thoughts. But I just felt this message might be better received from someone like Paul Tripp who is a bit more seasoned.
But then as I read the book, I realized his message is rock solid. He writes from a distinctly reformed tradition, which I particularly appreciated. From the opening pages of the book, he works really hard at showing how the answer to the trials and tribulations of pastoral ministry is found in the gospel. For instance, in the opening chapter, he commiserates with some of the difficulties the normal pastor might face and their response to them. He says,
"The pastor can be the loneliest soul in the congregation, wandering out in the point man position, scoping the land for danger all by himself, yet always feeling the tug of those needing his attention on the back of his coat . . . The pastor is ministerially multipolar . . . Very few people lose sleep over 'the way the church is going.' But the pastor does . . . The laity starts Monday fresh, filled. The pastor starts Monday exhausted, empty" (24-25).
But then he shepherds us with these direct, but helpful words . . .
"And yet, let's not overthink it, brothers. Let us not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Oh, we poor pitiful pastors, we sorry lot, we put-upon unprevailers! We special class, whatever will we do with ourselves? We can nail self-pity to the cross, first off" (25).
Please, tell us what you really think! But he is so right. And that is how much of the book reads. It is like taking a right cross only to be followed up with a left hook, but then to be hugged by Jesus with the remedy of the gospel.
In the first half of the book, Wilson shares his thoughts from 1 Peter 5 on the Free, Holy, Humble, Confident, Watchful, and Justified Pastor. But then in the second half of the book, he turns to show how the pastor needs the sola's: He uses the Scripture alone, he lives and preaches grace alone, he is moved by his faith alone, Christ is His only king, and everything he does is that God be glorified alone.
If you are looking for some good encouragement, yet also a little jump start in your ministry, this will help. Are you concerned for your pastor, then maybe you should read this book. Are you an elder who is trying to give good shepherding to those on pastoral staff, this will certainly give you good thoughts. And pastor, you probably need to read this book. You need it for your leadership. You need it for your church. You need it for your soul.
As Wilson has done in many other books, he clearly articulates and applies the gospel to this much needed topic. And for that, regardless of his age or experience, I am grateful!
I received a copy of The Pastor's Justification by Jared C. Wilson from Crossway for review.