Tag Archives: pastor

Book Review: The Pastor’s Family

Last Monday I reviewed a book by Pastor Brian Croft, The Pastor’s Soul, which is the third book in a trilogy of pastoral help books.  You can read that review at the link above.  However, it prompted me to go back and read the first in the series, The Pastor’s Family (published by Zondervan in 2013).  I gave this book, along with The Pastor’s Soul four out of five stars on GoodReads.

I must say that I enjoyed reading this book immensely.  Co-authored with his wife Cara, Brian Croft was able to write what I would consider to be the most honest and helpful book to pastors and aspiring-pastors.  I especially liked the format, in which Brian writes most of the book, but Cara will break in either to give the wife’s perspective of the subject, helpful advice to pastors’ wives, or even to clarify, it would seem at times, what her husband was saying.  There are also a couple of pages at the end of each part where a person reflects on their own experiences.  The first time is written by a pastor, the second by a pastor’s wife, and the third is by someone who grew up as a PK (pastor’s kid).  Each of these “reflections” are helpful for solidifying what has been written in parts 1, 2, and 3.

In the first part, Brian seeks to help pastors understand their role in the family.  It is his desire to see us as pastors living up to what true success is–not some secular version of the term, but God’s version revealed in Scripture.  He gives us both the problem (chapter 1) and the solution (chapter 2).  He pointedly asks the rhetorical question, “What if God evaluated the faithfulness and greatness of a pastor, not simply by the successes of his local church ministry, but by how well he cared for and pastored his own family–his wife and children?” (p. 23)  And then he shockingly, but truthfully admits that “The only  person lonelier than a pastor in a church may be the pastor’s wife.” (p. 41)  This was not to make church members feel guilty, but to open the eyes of pastors who can become inwardly focused toward their own loneliness and miss that their wives are just as lonely, if not more so.  Tolle Lege if you want to know how he resolves this.

The second part is about caring for the wife. This time, it is Brian doing the breaking in to explain things from the husband’s perspective–at least the first chapter of the section.  Cara gives an honest look at what it means to be a pastor’s wife and how this affects the family and the church.  She wisely advises, “[I]t’s important that the wife of a pastor shares his desire to serve the church, but her service cannot be motivated by a concern for what other people think.” (p. 69).  But she also rebukes the wife who often will keep things to herself, becoming overwhelmed. “If we do not make our needs known to others, we cannot expect them to help us.” (p. 76).  The next chapter is Brian showing the pastor ways to care for his wife.

The third part deals with caring for the kids.  I don’t want to give too much away from this part.  This was probably the most convicting portion of the book personally.  I have often sought to care for my wife, but feel like I am not as diligent with the kids.  After reading this book, I feel doubly so.  Pastor Croft gives good, but difficult advice on how to pastor and father one’s children as individuals and as a group.  He does advocate for family worship/devotions, but goes beyond just that.  He also gives tips on how to get your children ready for Sunday’s sermon, which I found interesting.

Throughout this book, we are given examples of good ministers, but bad family men.  Yet, he also gives us examples of men who were able to do well at being both.  It was hard to hear of men, respected by almost all in the faith as being great pastors and evangelists, being neglectful husbands or fathers. But as pastors and Christians we are to be about the truth and learn from those who went before us, emulating their faith, but not their failures. No, we learn from their failures.

In fact, Cara is open about one other item from which we can all: her battle with depression. Though it is a quick chapter in this book, she explains the first time she went through it as well as the second time, and how she was able to get help.  At the time of her writing this book, she admits to being in another bout.  Pastors and wives would be greatly helped by this chapter alone.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone, at only 166 pages beginning to end, it is not a difficult read.  It is not a theological book, but a practical book.  I would recommend it especially to pastors or wives who are struggling in their marriage, pastors whose children seem to be more and more resentful of the church, and aspiring pastors (those who are feeling the calling or are currently in seminary).  I would also recommend this book to laypeople in the church.  It gives a clear and concise picture of what it is like to be a pastor or pastor’s family.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like, read this book.  The Crofts deal honestly and openly about the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I am looking forward to now reading the second book in the trilogy: The Pastor’s Ministry.  I hope to be writing another book review soon.

Shepherd Knowledge

Last night, we had the privilege and honor to ordain a new pastor and two new deacons at our church.  Here is the manuscript (not transcript) of my sermon(ette) from last night.

 

Introduction

While it is easy to miss the forest for the trees, it is also easy to miss the trees for the forest.  The forest is made of so much more than merely trees. There are birds, squirrels, woodchucks, streams, flowers, foliage, ferns, nests,  eggs, deer, and maybe even a big foot or two.  There’s an entire eco-system that makes a forest a forest.  But it is easy to see the forest and miss the trees.  There are spruce trees and maple trees, pine trees and sweet gum trees, oak trees and beech trees, sycamore trees and elm trees.  If one concentrates on the forest too much, he may ignore the trees, but if he only pays attention to the trees, the forest goes unnoticed.

The same could be said about pastoring.  It is common for pastors to look at the church, the gathering of the people together and focus on that.  He focuses on the service, the administration, and basically the big picture.  He can easily forget that the church—the flock—is made up of individual sheep.  Some sheep are strong sheep while others are weak.  Some have more needs than others.  Some are more talkative than others. Some are old, some are young, some are middle age.  Some are matured believers, while others are new-born Christians.  Some have experienced traumatic backgrounds, while others seem to have grown up in a what could only be described as a near-perfect family.  A pastor can so easily focus on all sheep that he forgets about the things that are required for the church as a whole.

While, this makes a good argument for a plurality of pastors, as a pastor, the Bible calls upon you to pay attention to both the flock and the sheep, the church as a whole and the member as an individual.  And so, my hope and prayer for you as you join the pastorate is to share some shepherd knowledge with you, and that as you grow as a pastor, you will pass on your shepherd knowledge to others.

Solomon wrote, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds,” (Proverbs 27.23, ESV).  In the next few minutes, my hope is to pass on why it is critical to know your flock well.

 

Practice

If you do not know well the condition of your flock, you will not be able to practice your ministry well.  Pastors do not practice in generals.  They practice in specifics.  In my eighteen years of pastoring, I have come across those people with whom I must speak gently, while others with whom I must be abrupt and unrelenting.  I will say that there are more of the former than the latter.  But the only way I got to know that was by spending time with them as individuals, outside the church services.

If you continue on in the pastorate for any long amount of time, you will find those in the church who seek out for your good, those who seek out for your demise, and those who simply seek out to be yes men or women.  If you practice in generals you’ll not know who these are.  You can find yourself blindsided by those who seek your demise, or by the yes-men and women who allow you to fall into sin.

As I stated before, there are different sheep with different needs.  Some of those sheep will seem fine on the outside and have all the right things to say, but inwardly they struggle. Inwardly they are weak and fainthearted.  Inwardly they are hurting.  If you do not practice your ministry in specifics, geared toward the individual member, you may never know.

Pray

If you do not know well the condition of your flock, you cannot practice your ministry well, but neither can you pray well.  It is not a good thing for anyone, especially a pastor, to pray in generals.  We are to pray in specifics.  However, if you or I do not know that Jane Doe is dealing with anxiety or that John Smith is struggling to understand the Bible in a certain area, how then do you know how to pray for them?

Pastors must rely upon prayer.  A praying pastor is a powerful pastor.  A powerful pastor may preach powerful sermons, but it is not his sermons that make him a powerful pastor.  It is his prayer-life that makes him a powerful and great pastor.  If you hope to have a thriving pastorate, be a pastor that prays for his people in specifics.

Listen to your people when they speak.  Watch their faces. Notice their body language.  Do they tear up when speaking about a subject or a loved one? Do they shift their weight when confronted about an issue?  Do they cross their arms when speaking about a situation?  Those are cues to pray.  Pray for them and if appropriate, pray with them.  I say, if appropriate because the person may not yet be aware of their own feelings, actions, or understandings.  They would not understand why you prayed as you did.  There could also be the possibility that you misunderstood their body language, which would be revealed later as you prayed and continued to pay attention.

Preach

If you do not know well the condition of your flock, you will not be able to practice well, pray well, and finally: you will not be able to preach well.  Sermons on Sundays are not general lectures.  They are not conference speaking engagements.  They are sermons directed to a people that you know and a people that you love.  Brian Croft, senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church and founder of Practical Shepherding, wrote:

As you prepare to preach God’s word, you should have your people in mind.  Think about the difficulties they are facing, the challenges in their lives right now.  How does God’s word from this passage minister grace to them?  As questions like, “How does this truth relate to Joe’s marriage?  How does this characteristic of God speak to the pain Margaret is feeling after losing her husband?  How does this passage help Sarah care for her home more faithfully, help Doug deal with is difficult boss, or minister to Sally, who just found out she has cancer?” A pastor should have specific people on his mind to help him apply the truth of God’s word directly to the unique situations in his congregation.[1]

That doesn’t mean that you call out their name or their situation from the pulpit, but that you apply it in such a way that they can grow and learn from God’s Word.  If you don’t know your sheep, you cannot preach in such a way.  The people need doctrine, but they also need direction.  They need specific preaching to specific difficulties with which they deal.

Conclusion

While, I started out by saying that both the forest and the trees are in danger of being ignored, it is the trees that are the easiest to forget about.  It is easy to put off the phone calls and visits for more urgent matters.  But you weren’t called to pastor matters; you were called to pastor your people.  While you cannot know them perfectly, nor can you know them totally, you can know them well.  “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds,” (Proverbs 27.23, ESV).

[1] Brian Croft, The Pastor’s Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2015), pp. 46-47.