If you want to understand the role of the pastor, you can do much worse than read this book

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I recently bought Jared Wilson’s The Pastor’s Justification on the recommendation of another seasoned minister. I am only early on in the book but it is already extremely helpful. I may review it once I’ve finished (but I reserve the right not to bother). I just wanted to share one extended quote that rang true:

The pastor can be the loneliest soul in the congregation, wandering out in the point man position, scoping the land for danger all by himself, yet always feeling the tug of those needing his attention on the back of his coat. The pastor is a multitasker not just of duties but of personalities and problems. Many Christians are focused on their own journey; the biblical pastor is too, but he’s also focused on yours. And his and hers and the next guy’s. In one day he might hold a dying woman’s hand, grieve in the office with a couple on the verge of divorce, celebrate one hundred days of sobriety with someone, and then go home and laugh with his wife and kids at a Munsters rerun. The pastor is ministerially multipolar.

The vantage point of pastoral ministry is a heavy and secret thing. Good pastors aren’t always spilling everybody else’s guts, so one hour he may be rushing out on a benevolence call on his day off, and the next hour hear the accusation that he is selfish. (True story.) The accuser knows nothing of the benevolence call, and the good pastor does not feel compelled to defend himself using it as evidence. He has his own perspective and trusts God will vindicate him in due time when all things are revealed. The recipient of the benevolence has his perspective too. And the next day he may be asked “But what have you done for me lately?

Sister Serious is concerned about the way Sister Broken lets her son squirm during the worship service without disciplining him. But the pastor knows that Sister Broken is recovering from an abusive ex and is growing in Christ, and that to clamp down on her squirmy son at this point would further risk bruising a heart in need of healing. (Also, good pastors know that little boys are squirmy.)

Very few people lose sleep over “the way the church is going.” But the pastor does.

If you are concerned the entire book is a pity party concerned with vindicating the embattled pastor, think again. I am only early on in the book but in the same chapter as the above quote, Wilson offer an absolutely brilliant extended quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together in which he pointedly rebukes pastor’s for wishing God had entrusted a different flock to our care. It is a warning against placing our vision for what the church ought to be over and above what the church actually is, and becoming discouraged with the church when they fail to act in accordance with our personal vision for them. As Wilson says:

Pastor, do not let your vision for the church you want get in the way of God’s vision for the church you actually have! Let’s not be our church’s accuser. Someone has already taken that position… God will be faithful to finish the good work he’s begun in us, and he doesn’t need us walking around in our hall-monitor sash, handing out demerits.

There have been plenty of other great insights already, even at this early stage of reading. Wilson has touched upon the professionalisation of ministry, the pastor’s heart, the church’s expectations and a number of other areas. He has handled them all with wit, clarity and insight.

Despite being early on in the book, Wilson’s insights have been really helpful and his analysis of pastoral ministry has certainly rung true for me. If you want to know how best to care for your pastor, or you want to come to understand pastoral ministry better, this book would almost certainly be a good place to start.