One of my struggles in the last nine years of doing small-group ministry is that I spend more time thinking like a teacher than a disciple. When I approach the Scriptures, I can easily fall into the trap of thinking, “How can I teach this?” rather than first thinking, “What is it teaching me?” This can be especially dangerous when I teach about the Gospel. I will call out in full voice how nothing a person can do will earn or deserve the free grace-gift of Jesus, but yet in my quiet moments, I find myself trying to work harder and do better so that God will be pleased with my soiled-rag righteousness. I preach grace to others, and chastise myself for insufficient works. In other words, I need to apply the Gospel to my own heart and my own ministry as much as I apply it to the hearts of others in the work of ministry.
Enter Jared Wilson, a faithful minister and fantastic writer. Several year back, his book, Gospel Wakefulness, was a powerful tonic for my spiritual life. His book and blog writing moves and challenges me greatly, and I would put him on the short-list of living pastor-writers whose work is always a must-read for me.
I recently finished one of his latest books, The Pastor’s Justification, and can say with full conviction that every pastor should read this book. Fellow believer, buy it for your pastor. It will be an immense blessing to him. It was for me.
The book is divided into two sections: “The Pastor’s Heart” and “The Pastor’s Glory.” In “The Pastor’s Heart,” Wilson uses I Peter 5:1-11 as a framework for talking about a pastor’s motivations, personal holiness, humility, and attitudes. In “The Pastor’s Glory,” he discusses the temptations that pastors face in terms of church growth strategies and message moderation. Pointing to the “Five Solas” of the Reformation, Wilson calls preachers back to Biblical faithfulness and ministry focus that gives all glory to God, instead of the efforts of “visionary leaders.”
Wilson’s ideas here aren’t new or innovative–and I mean that in the best way possible. He exhorts his brother-pastors to return to the foundations of true gospel ministry, the type of ministry that relies on God’s power to produce God’s work for God’s glory.
The Pastor’s Justification is a letter of encouragement to the overworked, overwhelmed, spiritually-exhausted pastor, the wounded shepherd, the weakened warrior. Wilson’s admonitions and exhortations are gentle yet direct, humble but forceful. As a fellow-laborer who has been through deep valleys himself, Wilson writes pastorally to pastors.
If you are in pastoral ministry, I’m telling you–you need to read this. It won’t double your church size or give you a shot at the conference-speaking circuit. But it will remind you of the true faith once delivered to all the saints. It will refresh you with a cool drink of Gospel waters. And it will point you to the infinite beauty of our King Jesus, the shepherd of all of our souls.