Monday, November 25, 2013

Puritans on Pastoring

Joel R. Beeke and Terry D. Slachter, Encouragement for Today’s Pastors: Help from the Puritans. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2013. 211 pp. Paperback. $15.00.

Reviewed by Ryan M. McGraw

This book offers encouragement both to pastors and to Christians in general. This reviewer expected the authors to present lessons for pastors derived from Puritan works on pastoral theology. While they do draw from such sources, they draw upon their broad knowledge of Puritan writings in general to treat various aspects of the pastoral ministry and Christian living. The authors introduce each chapter with reference to contemporary issues that affect ministers and churches, such as ministerial burnout, discouragement, feeling irrelevant to contemporary culture, and facing unrealistic expectations from the church. This helps readers adapt the wisdom of Puritan ministers to the present generation.

Some of the most helpful features of this book include submitting to God’s will in the trials and blessings of the ministry, the value of keeping spiritual journals, developing ministerial fellowship, freeing ministers to follow their calling as Scripture defines it, and the urgency and importance of the preaching of the Word. The material on journaling struck this reviewer as particularly helpful. I have often found journaling time consuming and unfruitful. However, the Puritans recommended narrowing the focus of journaling to topics such as remarkable providences, recording answered prayers, the comforts that the Lord brings to meet every trial, and similar topics. This is potentially more fruitful than collecting a record of random spiritual experiences that believers are unlikely to consult again.

Most of the trials that ministers face are the same kind of trials that every Christian faces, differing in degree only. I read the chapter on submitting to God’s will while in a hospital waiting room mourning the death of a daughter and waiting for my wife to undergo surgery. The Lord ministered to my soul greatly not only as a minister, but as a Christian in need of communion with God. All believers who prayerfully read this book will simultaneously understand better the trials of their pastors and gain wisdom and encouragement for their own souls.

The preceding review was first published in Banner of Truth.