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Two Book Recommendations on Pastoral Ministry

I recently finished two helpful books on pastoral ministry and would like to recommend them to you.

Timothy Witmer, The Shepherd Leader.  Witmer begins by laying out a biblical theology of shepherding.  Witmer describes that the ultimate shepherd is Christ and then makes a clear connection between Jesus as the true shepherd and pastors as his under-shepherds.  Witmer provides a short history of shepherding and then spends the rest of the book explaining what the shepherd does and how he does it.  The last part of the book is by far the most helpful.  While there are many practical and helpful aspects that Witmer provides in his book, I will simply highlight two that stuck out to me.  First, Witmer does a nice job of showing how shepherding can be divided up in four main areas: know, feed, lead, and protect.  What I found insightful in each of these areas was how shepherding takes place on a macro and micro level.  In other words, there are ways we shepherd the flock corporately and individually.   Second, Witmer does a good job of tying shepherding to other areas of church ministry such as membership, church discipline, and elder training.  Witmer argues that when a church has a biblical and robust shepherding plan other areas of the church will benefit.  Although, some may read Witmer’s book (or even my comments above) and think this shepherding stuff is “common sense” for the pastor; the sad news is that many churches do not have a shepherding plan or if they do have one it is done poorly.  If the church where you serve does not have a shepherding plan or needs some fresh perspectives on how to shepherd, Witmer’s book is a must read for you and the Elders. 

William Still, The Work of the Pastor.  Still is an ideal candidate to write a book on pastoral ministry as he served the same church for over fifty years.  Despite its relatively short length, Still’s book is helpful on a number of fronts.  First, there are two helpful chapters on the pastor in the pulpit and out of the pulpit.  For Still the work of preaching and shepherding derives its significance and direction from the Word of God.  Second, Still offers numerous points of pastoral guidance for young pastors (chapters 3-5); in particular I found his final exhortations to be most encouraging: know Christ, be sure of your call, wait for His will, die to yourself, and don’t go it alone.  Finally, while there were many perceptive statements by Still, there was one in particular that spoke to me.  Still writes, “We can learn not only from what was good but from what was bad in the ancients; just as when a young minister goes as assistant to some established pastor he may learn not only how to do his job, but also how not to do it” (p. 77).  God has been a faithful instructor in my short pastoral life of what to do and many times what not to do.  Reading books like Still’s and Witmer’s remind us as pastors that no matter how long we have been in pastoral ministry, we must never underestimate the need to refresh our hearts with timeless pastoral exhortations.  Just as a faithful athlete will “fine tune” his craft, pastors must read good books on pastoral ministry to help them think and live out faithfully the task God has called them to.

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