Tag Archives: The Pastor’s Soul

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.

Book Review: The Pastor’s Soul

On September 20-21 I went to a revitalization conference in York, NE where Brian Croft was the main guest speaker.  I had already read a couple of his books, listen to his podcast, and read a few blogs.  I wanted to hear him preach and see what he was like in person.  Plus, I wanted to meet a couple of online associates/friends, and get to know them as well.  While at the conference, I picked up a number of Croft’s books (co-written, solely-written, or foreword-written).  Among them was The Pastor’s Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd, co-written with Jim Savastio.

Both Croft and Savastio are pastors in Louisville, though at different churches: Auburndale Baptist and The Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville respectively. Both have been in the ministry for years and both seek to live out what they have written, though both do so imperfectly, admittedly.

The Pastor’s Soul is part of a trilogy and just recently came out earlier this year. It is the last of the three-part series, The Pastor’s Family and The Pastor’s Ministry (both of which I will be reading soon and writing a review–stay tuned). However, I wanted to read this particular book first because of personal reasons.  I too have been in the ministry for years, and over the past year or so have come to realize that it is easy to neglect one’s own soul while tending and caring for those in the flock.  When I heard the book was in the works, I was excited. When I heard it was published, I was thrilled.  When I read the book, I was inspired.

As I wrote earlier, I only picked this book up on the 21st of September. I didn’t get a chance to read it until that Monday, September 24. I finished it Saturday (September 29) afternoon.  While it is only 154 pages long, I tend to read slowly seeking to absorb as much as I can.  By the end of Appendix B, I had soaked in much wisdom, and had related to many of the experiences within the pages, vicariously living through others.

There are four parts to this book: Part 1: Biblical Commands Concerning a PastorPart 2: Pastoral Call Upon a PastorPart 3: Spiritual Care of a Pastor, and Part 4: Physical Care of a Pastor.  Perhaps I am being a bit “of the flesh,” but  I was grateful that Croft and Savastio did not spend a great deal of time referring to the biblical requirements of a pastor.  There is a chapter where this is covered, but I’d venture to say that both authors figured that most who read this book are familiar with 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1’s requirements.  They summarized the requirements quite nicely, but did not belabor them.

That being said, what they did seek to do is show what and why a pastor is called to tend, not only his flock, but himself.  From the first chapter, “Take Heed to Yourself,” I was hooked.  “God does not see you first and foremost as a pastor, he sees you as his child.  He sees you as one whom he set his love on before the foundation of the world. His view of you is not dependent on how well or poorly you have performed in your office,” (p. 28). It is easy to preach that to others, while not acknowledging it in one’s role as a pastor.  In today’s ministry, with all the mega-churches, and all the conferences geared toward bigger, better ministries and sermons and such, it is good to be reminded that God is not impressed with our success, but loves as a father loving a child.

The book continues with explaining why it is that heeding yourself, heeding your flock, and heeding your doctrine are so vital in pastoral life.  Chapter 5 is the chapter on the pastor’s calling and qualifications, leading into chapter 6 where the pastor is shown the need to acknowledge his weakness and his dependence on Christ.  One of the most meaningful chapters though, for me, was the seventh one; it’s about the pastor’s love. Being one who tends to keep away from emotions, it was eye-opening to read truths such as, “We cannot suppress emotion out of fear and then assume we can somehow still feel deeply,” (p. 83), and “A courageous pastor loves deeply as he risks feeling deeply,” (p. 84).

Part 3 (Savastio) quickly dealt with the pastor’s need to care spiritually for his own soul.  Thus he needs to be under the word as much as those in his flock.  He needs to read/study God’s Word outside of sermon prep, and listen to the exposition from other pastors, live is best, but other ways if one can’t be there in person.

It was Part 4 that was most practical.  There, Brian Croft speaks to the physical care of the pastor including his need to know how much sleep he needs, how easy it is to stress-eat and neglect exercise, along with some other chapters about taking care of this temple that houses the Holy Spirit.

All in all, this was a great read and one that, while I had to put down to do my pastoral work, I looked forward to picking back up time and time again.  I am looking forward to the other books in the series, as this one had a great impact on my soul as I am sure it will for any pastor who will read.  I would encourage “the flock” to read this as well, so that they know how to help a pastor who is neglecting his own soul-care. If you care about keeping your pastor healthy and burnout-free, then read this book and implement its advice.