If you are considering pastoring, I’ve got a question I’d like you to think about and then read through the comments that our readers will be offering. Recently we posted a series on Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry, but sitting on my “to read” stack of books are three more books about pastoring. I can’t go through each one but I do want to call your attention to them should you be interested. Both seminary students and pastors can profit from these, but I suspect the former will see something different than the latter. This raises my question for the day:
What was the biggest change of perspective from the time you were anticipating and reading about pastoring in seminary (if you went that route) and to, say, 2-3 years after you had been pastoring?
Our first book, both more accessible and much cheaper than the next two, is also the most pastoral. James W. Thompson, a professor at Abilene Christian, has given to all of us a fine book in Pastoral Ministry according to Paul. He looks at Paul’s pastoral vision in Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans and the Corinthian letters. Now here this: Thompson builds on the insights of recent Pauline scholarship (code language for New Perspective sensitivities) and builds a pastoral theology that transcends individualism and lands us squarely in community transformation. So, here’s his big point and one needs to read the book and do some serious soul searching to let it trickle down into real life ministry: “ministry is participation in God’s work of transforming the community of faith until it is ‘blameless’ at the coming of Christ” (150). Maybe the best book I’ve read in 10 years on pastoral ministry.
Victor Copan, in his insightful and wise study of Paul (a readable dissertation), called Saint Paul as Spiritual Director, builds on two foundations: what spiritual direction is in the modern world and how Paul’s own call to imitation forms a bridge into such a topic from a biblical angle. Vic Copan, a former student and now professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, writes from the rich and demanding context as a former missionary to Austria. The biblical materials, Copan persuasively argues, challenge some of the trends and ideas in current spiritual direction. This fine study bucks some trends, resists some fashion, and walks away with integrity and wisdom. If you are involved in spiritual direction, read this book — and tell Amazon to make it available over here.
Andrew Clarke, well known professor at the University of Aberdeen and an accomplished historian of the earliest churches, has recently written an academic book called A Pauline Theology of Church Leadership. (It’s very expensive so get your library to buy it, but it’s worth the read.) There is more confusion today on the part of those who think they want to restore the church back to house church-like foundations on leadership than probably any other issue. Power is an issue today — and postmoderns don’t like it — but it wasn’t an issue to Paul or to the early churches, and this book contends that the early Pauline household churches had household owners as the leaders, in a hierarchical relationship, and they had considerable power. Clarke explores the early evidence, evidence that many today seem to ignore, about elders and deacons and pastors. Clarke, unlike some crusaders today, is sensitive to the historical context and to our context — it’s not easy to translate Paul’s practices and teachings into our world.