Melvin Tinker, ed.
Mentor, 2012, 256 pp.
The name and ministry of Philip Hacking may not be well known to readers of The Briefing. (This reviewer certainly did not know of Philip before reading this book.) To set the record straight, Philip Hacking has been a faithful minister of the gospel for more than 40 years in the Church of England, serving in the parishes of St. Helens, Edinburgh and Sheffield. The essays making up The Renewed Pastor survey various aspects of pastoral ministry and were presented to Philip in appreciation of his ministry.
It’s refreshing to find a book on this subject that does not try to reinvent the wheel. Instead, the purpose of this book is to renew pastors by reminding them of the key components of pastoral ministry. There are essays on the scope of pastoral ministry (Melvin Tinker), prayer (Peter Lewis), theology (Tim Chester and Steve Timmis), preaching (Peter Adam), evangelism (Paul Williams), worship (D. A. Carson), baptism (J. I. Packer), church planting (Frank Retief), and church growth (David Holloway) as well as the place of ministry to students (John Risbridger), to the wider evangelical body (John Stevens) and to one’s denomination—in Philip’s case, the Church of England (Gerald Bray). Short but warm insights into Philip and his ministry commence each of these chapters. Each essay then discusses the particular topic from a biblically and theologically informed perspective while keeping the discussion grounded in the day-to-day challenges of the local church. Some of the authors have contributed larger works on these essays (e.g. Peter Adam on preaching; Don Carson on worship), with the result being that a number of the essays provide distilled and learned introductions to the topics.
I can only imagine the difficulty of sustaining an argument across an entire book with as many topics as this, let alone when there are as many authors as there are topics. However, recurring themes emerge throughout the essays, including the importance of the word of God and prayer, thinking theologically in ministry, training others and ‘serving beyond the parish borders’.
The importance of the word and prayer
In a book that attempts to survey so many areas of pastoral ministry, the opening two essays appropriately emphasize the place of the word of God and prayer. Melvin Tinker describes the renewed pastor as one whose “life and ministry has been rekindled and shaped by the Scriptures, involving a wholehearted dependence upon the Holy Spirit” (p. 15). Tinker then moves through Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-35), discussing the priorities of pastoral ministry with Richard Baxter’s classic The Reformed Pastor providing additional and eloquent insights into this key passage. Peter Lewis follows with ‘The Pastor at Prayer’, in which he is both frank—the pastor’s temptation “to say ‘I want to get on with my work’ and to neglect prayer is somewhere between arrogance and folly”—and honest—“all the books I read cannot make up for prayer” (p. 36).
The importance of theological reflection
If one temptation facing pastors is to leave prayer behind for ‘productivity’, another temptation could be to leave theology behind for pragmatics. Chester and Timmis’ essay, ‘The Pastor as Theologian’, is a particularly strong example of how The Renewed Pastor is intending to ground each topic in the context of the local church. They underline the importance of knowing the struggles and the challenges that contemporary issues raise for the congregation, in order to bring theology to bear and to mature the Church. Carson’s essay, ‘The Pastor and Worship’, is a great and beneficial example of theological reflection. This chapter is as helpful for its contribution to the topic as it is for modelling theological method. Biblical theology and systematic theology are thoroughly interwoven as Carson brings the whole counsel of God to bear on the topic of worship while observing the change and continuity that this topic undergoes between the covenants. Seen in this light, worship emerges as ‘the category under which we order everything in our lives’ which applies to more than but certainly not less than our church services (p. 120).
The importance of training
The importance of training others receives appropriate attention in The Renewed Pastor. There are helpful reminders about training people in evangelism and about the opportunities that ministry to students provides, but of the chapters devoted to this theme Peter Adam’s chapter on ‘The Pastor as Preacher’ is a particular highlight. Adam’s concern is not for preparing a sermon, nor how to help someone else prepare a sermon, but on how to prepare a preacher. This was a good reminder of how pastors should be seeking to complement the training younger preachers are receiving in theological colleges by investing time into them personally, and not just their next sermon.
Valuable insights into church planting and church growth can be gleaned from the chapters by Frank Retief and David Holloway. Retief’s essay on ‘The Pastor and Church Planting’ describes his own experience and involvement with church planting in Kenilworth, Cape Town. There is much humility, wisdom and warning to be learned here from Retief. Supplementing Holloway’s chapter on church growth is an appendix that contains a sermon that illustrates how a vision for growth might be articulated to a church, whether it is multiplying or planting or is relatively stable.
The importance of looking “beyond the parish boundaries”
The book concludes with an encouragement for pastors to serve beyond their parish boundaries. Gerald Bray’s essay on ‘The Pastor as Evangelical and Anglican’ should command a wider audience than the title suggests because of the timely wisdom it contains. In our current climate most Christians claim a far greater affinity with evangelicalism, generally speaking, compared to their preferred denomination. There is a degree of appropriateness about this. However, the result of this can often be evangelicals withdrawing from the political spheres of our churches and their governing organizations. Bray’s essay gently challenges this by reminding us of the profitable and appropriate service to the wider body.
As one would expect in a volume like this, the quality of the essays varies. On more than one occasion I found myself moving through a section of an essay wondering: What exactly does this have to do with the topic? One particular essay, ‘The Pastor and Gospel Partnership’, had a measure of wisdom and insight to share on the important topic of partnering in ministry with Christians from other churches and or organizations. However, readers might question the appropriateness of using only Paul’s letter to the Romans to provide principles for approaching gospel partnerships with other churches. While this chapter made some sensible conclusions, the method constrained the discussion and left me wanting more on such an important topic.
Other questions might be raised at the argument in the chapter ‘The Pastor and Baptism’. The argument for baptism, infant and otherwise, as a replacement for the covenant sign of circumcision has had both its critics and adherents. Packer adopts this method and subsequently explores the background of baptism in the old covenant’s practice of circumcision. The effect of this, however, is that the portrayal of baptism as a description of the believer’s union into Christ’s death that in the New Testament is in the foreground, slips into the background. However, this is not the only argument for infant baptism. Perhaps if Packer had developed his observation on the status of children of believers marriages (1 Cor 7:14), he might have provided a better argument for this position.
Space should have been made in a survey of pastoral ministry for a chapter on ‘The Pastor and Discipleship’. I would also have really appreciated a chapter on ‘The Pastor and Leadership’—if we don’t discuss leadership theologically (cf. Rom 12:7), it won’t be practiced theologically.
Who might benefit from such a book?
While intended for pastors, I would hope that this book receives a wider audience. Ministry, of course, is not restricted to pastors but is the responsibility of the whole body ‘as each part does its work’ (Eph 4:16). I could foresee that someone who was approaching pastoral ministry would benefit from this succinct but wide survey of what pastoral ministry is all about. Better still would be if their pastor read it with them.
As someone fresh out of college and thus green in my pastoral experience, I found the book a helpful reminder of the responsibilities within pastoral ministry. We can be thankful for books like this because they provide renewed clarity in the fog of all the things we need to do by shining the light upon the things that we must do.