Review: Encouragement for Today's Pastors by Joel Beeke and Terry Slachter
Don't judge a book by its cover, at least this one.
I am not a fan of a cover with a guy looking at an iPad. However, the title of this book drew me: Encouragement for Today's Pastors: Help from the Puritans. From time to time, I need encouragement. On top of that, I enjoy reading the Puritans.
- They offer fascinating insights into life from 400 years ago.
- They speak of issues that are relevant.
- They use words in ways we don't.
- They tend to look at a problem or scripture from a thousand angles.
In their 211 pages, Beeke and Slachter's book did not disappoint. They covered six sections: Piety, Sovereignty, Clarity, Creativity, and Community (This is one section), Dignity, and Eternity. The book reminded me of Lectures to My Students by Spurgeon, Charles Bridges' The Christian Ministry, and John Piper's Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.
They began the book by pointing out that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month, 23% of serving pastors were either fired or forced out of their previous pastorate, and 34% of churches forced or fired their former pastor. Pastoring has its challenges. The authors cited five reasons for pastoral discouragement:
- "I cannot see any progress in my work."
- "I cannot do what I'm truly gifted to do."
- "Some difficult members are causing me pain."
- "I don't get affirmation for what I do."
- "I don't get enough rest and relaxation."
The authors defined Puritans as a group of Christians from the 1560s to the end of the 1600s originating out of England. They adhered to the scriptures and loved God. They suffered persecutions in a time that life was hard. They are offer encouragement to pastors today because they needed encouragement in their day.
Reading this book, you learn not only advice from these Puritans but about the hardships they faced. For example,
- Pastor and author John Flavel was fired in 1662 and would still preach in secret to his congregation risking further persecution.
- Pastor and author Thomas Watson lost four of his seven children, lost his pastorate because of his convictions twice, and nearly lost his life.
- Pastor and author Samuel Rutherford was removed from his church by the government because of his nonconformity. His first wife died after 13 months of pain; he lost all but one his children from her. Ten years later he remarried. He had six children. All six of his children died before he did. He was arrested later for his preaching and expected the death penalty but died before the trial.
QUOTES (I cannot quote enough of the book. It is so good.)
- The prerequisite for zeal in ministry is a heart that is in love with and on fire for the Lord Jesus. p. 18
- The life of a minister should be a walking Bible.... They who live in contradiction to what they preach disgrace this excellent calling. They turn their books into cups. And though they are angels by office, yet they are devils in their lives. - Richard Baxter p. 20
- As ministers of the gospel, we have a high calling to fulfill and only a short time to do it. We cannot afford to waste precious time in idleness and unproductive activity. The glory of God and the welfare of immortal souls hang in the balance every hour. p. 23
- Unless you are marketing spiritual novelties or religious trinkets, your business as a pastor is first and foremost to spend time with the Lord. p. 29
- We cannot live forever in our devotions but must go into the world to serve Christ. p. 38
- So pastors, get out of the trap of measuring yourself by the size of your ministry. Stop trying to produce fruit in other people's lives. Let go of trying to breathe life into corpses. Each branch must abide in the vine, but you cannot be the vine. You can only cling to Christ, let His Word abide in you, and bear the fruit of the Spirit to the glory and praise of God. p. 64
- We must never think godliness will insulate us from pain. p. 66
- When you are sitting in a nursing home while younger men take your pulpit, how important will be the size of the church you served a decade ago? After you die, how many people will even remember your name? And if they do, what difference will it make to you? You will be with the Lord. If earthly honors and achievements mean so little in eternity, why put much stock in them now? Treasure only what will last. p. 70
- We are servants temporarily assigned to do a task by our Master. When our appointed time is up, the Lord will quickly replace us as He sees fit. We run for a few decades in a relay race that started centuries ago and may continue after us for many generations. Be faithful in running your leg of the race, and be ready at any moment to pass on the baton. Realize that your ministry, while significant to those under your care, is minuscule in the grand scheme of God's plan. In that plan, there are no mega-pastors or meg-churches, only a magnificent Christ, the King whose greatness is beyond our thought. p. 71
- He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own - C.H. Spurgeon p. 91