Published by Zondervan on March 2, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus called and equipped individuals who would serve his community of followers. These "shepherds" are called to preach, pray, and care for the needs of God's people. But what does it mean to be a pastor? And what is the nature of this ministry, according to the Bible?
In Gospel-Driven Ministry, Jared Wilson begins by looking at the qualifications for the pastorate, addressing the notion of a call to ministry and how an individual--and a church community--can best identify the marks of maturity and affirm a call. In each chapter, Wilson looks at one of the core practices of pastoral ministry. In addition, Wilson provides practical resources including theological insights on baptism and the Lord's Supper, guidance for wedding and funeral sermons, outlines for leading elder and deacon meetings, tips for interviewing new pastors, questions to ask at ordination, and advice on knowing when and how to leave a pastor role. This is a comprehensive, practical guide to pastoral ministry that prepares new pastors and equips those currently serving for long-term, healthy ministry.
Pastors should be aware that Wilson is Southern Baptist and Gospel-Driven Ministry reflects that background. In the opening pages of Wilson’s introduction to the calling and work of a pastor, he is overtly clear that he does not believe women can have this calling. Page fifteen states it clearly: “qualified pastors are to be qualified men.” This is to be expected from a conservative, Southern Baptist complementarian author, so I’m loathe to mark it as a criticism, but I really didn’t appreciate how glib Wilson is about the matter. I guess I’m not sure why it was a necessary inclusion at all. There’s not any other portion of the text that is gender-specific. There’s not any other portion that’s remotely controversial. I suppose that, for Wilson, it’s a matter of conviction and so it goes in—and I understand that even if I don’t agree.
However, since he addresses the issue, it behooves him to then choose his words carefully and exegete Scripture wisely, and Wilson does neither. Wilson first calls 1 Tim 2:11-14 “Paul’s most clear teaching” on the matter, then backtracks to say “this short passage is a complicated one” (pg. 15) within the space of couple sentences. Which is it? He defends his thesis saying that “Throughout the Scriptures, we see only men in positions of authority over the people of God” (p. 16). Apparently, Wilson is unaware of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Junia, Nympha, and other women who all led politically and/or spiritually. It’s an inept defense of complementarianism that poorly deals with the text and then extricates itself by saying there isn’t time to talk about it.
The rest of the book is…okay. It’s a perfectly serviceable undergraduate level textbook on pastoral ministry for any Southern Baptist university. Wilson writes simply, clearly, and concisely. The book is laid out well and the chapters lend themselves to reflection and study. It’s a very elementary, basic look at the foundational structure of being a pastor, leading a congregation, working with others, and remaining gospel-centered.
One thing that Wilson doesn’t do very well, however, is define with comes under the umbrella of “gospel-driven.” To me, my hope with that phrase was to see how the Gospel message drives how we as pastors enable our communities to work out their faith—to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Instead, Wilson’s definition is much vaguer, with the only overt implication that we need to make sure that the center of any teaching is Christ’s sacrifice. My problem with this is that, yes, people need to be told about what God has done for them, but discipleship is about teaching others what we can do, as Holy Spirit imbued vessels in light of what God has done.
The chapters on caring and doing a wedding and funeral and the other elements of pastoral service are fairly general and bland. There’s nothing wrong; there’s nothing exceptional. It reads like an employee handbook with some personal anecdotes. I didn’t feel like there was a lot of passion in the book. Everything just sort of seemed perfunctory, sterile—textbook. Even as an introduction, a lot of Gospel-Driven Ministry comes across as superficial, barely touching the surface of the real-life issues that one will get into in ministry. I had high hopes for this one and ultimately came away disappointed.