Book Critique: Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically

The book Pastoral Ministry:  How to Shepherd Biblically by John MacArthur is a collection of essays from the staff at Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA.  It draws on the rich knowledge of, not only Dr. MacArthur, but his staff who have all been pastors before teaching at the seminary level.  The book is written to not only challenge future pastors, but those who are already leading a church.  It shows that biblical ministry includes prayer, holiness, worship, discipleship, being a servant, and compassion for those you are leading (MacArthur, 2005, backcover).  Overall the book is divided into four main sections which include biblical perspectives, preparatory perspectives, personal perspectives, and pastoral perspectives.

Biblical Perspectives

The first section looks to scripture to tell the reader how important the office pastor is from a biblical perspective.  One of the primary biblical texts discussed is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which not only enforced the sufficiency and authority of scripture, but its need in developing priorities and pans in ministry (MacArthur, 2005, p. 11).  Humility is also discussed at length in the chapter and for very good reason.  Though it is not a popular worldly trait, humility is a must in a pastor.  In regards to this Dr. MacArthur writes, “The true man of God, however, seeks the approval of the Lord rather than the adulation of the crowd.  Humility is thus the benchmark of any useful servant of God (MacArthur, 2005, p. 16).”

Preparatory Perspectives

 This section of the book delves into the man who is called into ministry.  As the section describes it is about preparation.  Has the individual properly discerned his calling?  Are his qualifications in line with 1 Timothy chapter 3 and Titus chapter 1?  In regards to these Dr. MacArthur writes, “It is God’s demand that his steward live in such a holy manner that his preaching will never be a contradiction to his lifestyle (MacArthur, 2005, p. 68).”

A great deal of the section is also spent on the issue of sexual immorality.  One must be in control of himself, and be faithful to his wife.  This is a Godly example that Dr. MacArthur praises.  Overall there must not be a single flaw in the person’s character, and secondly the call of ministry must be recognized by others.  This can only be done by involving oneself with public ministry and being the willing recipient of feedback from the congregation.

Personal Perspectives

This section details the home and personal life of the pastor.  Ministry is hard on the family and the team reiterates this point.  Again 1 Timothy chapter 3 is looks at as the gold standard of a pastor’s personal life.  If his home life is in shambles then his ministry will greatly suffer (MacArthur, 2005, p. 123).  The pastor also must have a healthy spiritual life steeped in prayer and devotion.  This reiterated in chapter 10 when Dr, Rosscup writes, “God has given His Word as the pastor’s main tool.  God’s Word makes clear that a proper blending of the Word and prayer is the most strategic approach to ministry (MacArthur, 2005, p. 131).”

 

Pastoral Perspectives

The final section of the work is dedicated to the seven duties of a pastor.  The pastor has many different duties within the local church.  The team of writers lays out the following functions:  Worshiping, preaching, modeling, leading, outreaching, discipling, watching and warning, and observing ordinances (MacArthur, 2005, p. 187).  These roles make up everything that the pastor is responsible for at his church.  Though some may be delegated the responsibility lies on his shoulders.

CRITIQUE

Dr. MacArthur and his staff at Master’s Seminary presented a work designed to give the current, or aspiring pastor a blueprint on what to expect and to give perspective on what expect and conduct oneself.  It is truly a great resource for everyone in ministry to have, but it does have its issues.

There is much that is agreed upon in the work, but the section on training stands out.  This area falls under the personal perspective section that was discussed earlier.  The emphasis put on personal prayer and study is one that really hit home.  It is so easy to get complacent, and that is what the enemy wants.  The whole section is one that makes the minster be on guard against the things seeking to take his ministry down.  The pastor is to be an example of what it means to be Christ like.  If he is not doing these things then how is he supposed to teach his congregation to do so?  If his home life is in disarray how is he supposed to lead the flock?  These are all issues that were brilliantly dealt with in the work.

Disagreements were hard to come by in the book, but one big one jumped off the page on page 69.  Dr. MacArthur state that men must have impeccable reputations.  In regards to this Dr. MacArthur writes, “The pastor must have a reputation of being sexually pure (MacArthur, 2005, p. 69).”  To an extent this statement is agreeable, but are people to be held to these standards if it was something done before they came to Christ?  Disqualifying a Christian man because of something in his past would be wrong in this author’s opinion.  If the individual has repented, accepted Christ, and shown the fruit of the Christian life then this should override any past sin.  The intentions of Dr. MacArthur are fully understood, and by no means meant to be malicious.  If the qualifications for being a pastor were based on lifestyle before salvation then there may not be any good candidates.

EVALUATION

This book is not one that was written with the average layman in mind.  This is not to say that the average churchgoer will not benefit, but it is aimed at those who are in ministry or considering it.  The book is also very practical and is steeped in the ministerial wisdom and experience of the staff at Master’s Seminary.  The work delves into what scripture states a minister is to be.  This is echoed by Dr. MacArthur who writes, “Nothing could be more honorable or have greater eternal significance than serving our Christ and His church.  This privilege is also the most serious responsibility a person can undertake (MacArthur, 2005, Introduction).”  The writing team were honest about the hazards of ministry, particularly with the family.  They gave an honest portrayal of ministry and did a great job of preparing those seeking to undertake it.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

MacArthur, John, and The Master’s Seminary faculty. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2005

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Book Critique: Lectures to My Students By Charles Spurgeon

No matter what aspect of ministry you are involved in chances are you have heard of Charles Spurgeon.  He pastored a church that had attendance of over 10,000 people on a weekly basis, wrote many books, and over 1,900 sermons are attributed to him (Spurgeon, 1954, backcover).  Spurgeon regularly shared insights to ministerial students at Spurgeon College in an effort to adequately prepare them to be ministers of the Gospel.  Lectures to My Students is the documented exchange of lectured that Spurgeon gave to his students.  Ministers new and old with find a vast treasury of knowledge and insight that is helpful at any stage of a minster’s career.

 

SUMMARY

Charles Spurgeon’s book Lectures to My Students is an in depth ministry manual for ministerial students and Pastors that are currently serving.  In the work Spurgeon reiterates the importance of a relationship with Christ, a genuine call to serve, the necessity of prayer, and a hunger to reach the lost.

In speaking to his students about the Christian life Spurgeon states, “For a herald of the Gospel to be spiritually out of order in his own proper person is, both to himself and to his work, a most serious calamity (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 8).”  Ministers are to ever vigilant in prayer, faithful in private devotion, and must have the understanding that his soul must be taken care of before he can even think about pastoral ministry to someone else.

Spurgeon goes into great detail as to why the call of the minister must be authentic and from God.  A minister must have the desire to serve, be gentle under difficult circumstances, and good judgment.  Spurgeon provides unfortunate examples of those who have gone into ministry without an authentic call.  In regards to this calamity Spurgeon states, “That hundreds have lost their way and stumbled against a pulpit is sorrowfully evident from the fruitless ministries and decaying churches which surround us (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 25)”.  Part of the call is understanding that God opens doors for those who are faithful.

The call to ministry is also a call to holiness and a godly character.  If one strives to be a minister he must be someone the people can look up to.  He is to be an example of what it means to be a Christian.  One must be pious and have a high moral standard consistent with biblical principles.  Spurgeon eloquently states in regard to godly living, “We do not trust those persons who have two faces, nor will men believe in those whose verbal and practical testimonies are contradictory (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 17).”  This godly character is one that resonates from faith in Christ.  In his teaching about sermons Spurgeon gives great advice to his students.  He tells them to preach Christ always (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 79).

CRITIQUE

If there were ever a training manual for minsters then Lectures to My Students may qualify for it.  It gives practical lessons to prepare minsters for what they will encounter, and ways to keep them on the straight and narrow.  One of the great strengths of the book is the practical application that is presented.

The practical application can be seen in Spurgeon presenting what must be done with a minister’s life, both public and private.  This can also be seen in the chapter discussing sermons.  Spurgeon insists that sermons have teaching that can be applied to everyday life.  He also insists that the truth not be held back no matter how unpopular it is (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 75).  There is also a reminder of humility that the minister must always remember.  The minister is called by the creator of the Universe and that must never be forgotten.  It is a practical application of our place in the scheme of God, and we are to keep reverence to God as priority.

A weakness of the book, at least to the 21st century reader, is one of time.  Spurgeon served in England in the 1800’s, and many things have changed since then.  One such thing is language, and it has changed much in the last 200 years.  There was also some doctrinal turmoil among various Baptist groups in England during Spurgeon’s time.  This may have caused Spurgeon to be more forceful with some of his lectures.  The things he is forceful about such as justification by faith and the deity of Christ are things we should still feel the same about today.  As long as one understands these variables one will have no real issue with the work and will find it a great addition to their library.

EVALUATION

In the larger academic context Lectures to My Students is remarkable and has stood the test of time.  In in remarkable in its focus on a minster’s relationship with Christ, recognition of authentic calling, and the necessity of fulfilling the Great Commission.  It is a reminder that things such as times of solitude, quiet time, prayer, and fasting are still beneficial and needed for the minister to properly prepare for his work.  Sometimes those things are not popular, but they are certainly beneficial.  Spurgeon, though a successful preacher, was a truly humble servant of God (Spurgeon, 1954, p. 51).  He was truly an example for every one aspires to be in ministry, and for those who are currently in ministry.

 

 

WORKS CITED

Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to My Students. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954.

 

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