Whether moving into a solo pastor situation immediately following seminary studies or other preparation, or transitioning into a senior pastor position after serving on staff, many pastors have the experience of seeing their own initial sense of confidence evaporate before the demands, sometimes unexpected, of every day pastoral ministry. While some will blame inadequacies in their seminary preparation, to be fair, it is likely not possible for some things to be learned prior to being thrust into actual ministry experience. Nonetheless, those wanting to develop important ministry skills, or those wishing to improve them, can use mentors, whether personal or literary, in those early days of ministry.
The Practical Shepherding series, published by Zondervan and edited by Brian Croft, Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, seeks to help fill this need. Projected ultimately as seven slim books, most of which will be published later this year, the series begins publication with two short works that will benefit pastors in the early days of ministry, as well as their more experienced colleagues looking for either a refresher or a different perspective on ministry concerns.
Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Loss, written by Paul Tautges, who has been the pastor of Immanuel Bible Church for 22 years, provides a helpful guide to those ministering to people who are dealing with death. The book opens with a “biblical foundation for our comfort” largely drawn from Psalm 46 before transitioning to the practical ministry of the pastor and the church for those who are grieving. The book remains intensely both biblical and practical throughout. Pastor Tautges provides strategies for both short term and long term ministry for those who experience loss. I found his discussion of the need for long-term compassionate ministry for those who have experienced loss to be extremely valuable. While emphasizing the role of the pastor in pastoral care, he also discusses ways that compassionate ministry can be transitioned to others in the church, as well. The work is filled out with some of the author’s examples of comforting sermons, as well as appendices featuring various resources that can be used and sample plans for memorial services.
Gather God’s People: Understand, Plan, and lead Worship in your Local Church provides a primer for planning and leading worship. Series editor Brian Croft contributed to the work, though it is acknowledged early on that most of the actual writing was done by his co-author and associate pastor, Jason Adkins.
In opening chapters developing the biblical basis for worship, the authors identify four primary elements that should be utilized in corporate worship: read the Word, pray the Word, sing the Word, and See the Word. The last of those is applied to the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The remainder of the book develops and integrates those four concepts.
Writing about worship these days requires navigating numerous landmines – denominational and cultural, not to mention the whole contemporary versus traditional orientation. This reviewer, a Presbyterian, would consider the Baptist authors in some parts inadequate. On the other hand, while the authors make it a point on several occasions to incorporate contemporary worship resources, some will find them to be too traditional. With the understanding that nearly everyone will find something not to like, I would nonetheless argue that nearly anyone could benefit from working with the authors through this material. This reviewer has found that many churches, both traditional and contemporary, have fallen into a “sing for a while; preach for a while” rut in their understanding of worship, and they struggle to find a way to put it all together. Working through this volume will help.
Future volumes in the series will deal with varied practical issues, such as conducting funerals, visiting the sick, and praying for and shepherding the flock. The initial volumes, as indicated above, are relatively brief, and they can be read quickly. They are definitely worth the effort.