As a young man, one of the expectations you have before entering into the ministry is that the seminary will prepare for the future years in ministry. And partly it does. It gives you a lot of tools that you can use after. But as helpful as seminary education is, it doesn’t prepare you for the practicalities of pastoral ministry.
What prepares you for the ministry is the ministry. Being mentored in a local church, working with a team, talking and feeling with others from the church, spreading the gospel to unbelievers and reading a lot of practical advices from other pastors is what models you as an efficient pastor. That’s why I think that Kent Hughes’s book, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, is a wonderful contemporary and comprehensive handbook that serves ministers. The goal of the book is that will serve the pastor in 4 different ways: (1) encourage a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry; (2) refresh the church from the wells of history orthodoxy; (3) provide many of the best practical examples; (4) become a go-to resource for busy pastors.
To do this, Hughes summarized the areas of ministry in three parts: (1) Christian gatherings – this section focus on collective worship services, special annual services, weddings and funerals. A great merit of this section is Hughes’s effort to establish a biblical and historical framework. (2) Parts of the Worship Services – here you’ll read about different details in the collective gathering like public prayer, hymns, baptism, communion and historic Christian creeds. I found it very helpful especially because of the tips on song selection, music leading, practical examples. (3) Ministerial duties – the smallest section concentrates on pastoral counseling and hospital visitation with a lot of practical wisdom.
And this is what I appreciate most at this book – practical wisdom. Reading the wedding and funeral chapters you will be provided with a lot of historical and practical resources. It helps you think biblically why you do what you usually do. Throughout the book you can see so much seriousness about every little detail. A great emphasis is on prayer and worship helping you to see or to think at the reason behind your normal practice.
In the same time, you can see pastoral sensitivity. Hughes is one who’s “been there and don that”. You can feel his pastoral heart. In this book you have years of faithful ministry and lessons he learned in crucial areas. The only thing that I can mention as something negative is the balance of material in the book. Almost 70% of the books is on Christian worship gatherings and little space for ministerial duties.
I recommend The Pastor’s Book for every minister, young or old. This excellent book shows how seasoned pastors have conducted their ministry and provides a template for applying wisdom to other areas of ministry.
Note: I received a copy of this book from Crossway for the purpose of providing a review.