A Pastoral Ministry Reader

Like the other readers I have compiled, this one on pastoral ministry is simply a collection of articles, blogs, chapters, audio, and other media that I have found helpful. The resources here cover topics from preaching (lots of preaching!) to counseling to administration to ministry philosophy. If you are looking for resources on ecclesiology (church government), check out this reader. This is not exhaustive by any stretch. As always, more links will be added as time goes on. If there are links you cannot believe I missed, suggest away!

  1. Pastoralized (whole website) – Eric McKiddle
  2. 10 Reasons to Underprogram Your Church – Jared Wilson
  3. 3 questions with Tim Keller – Garrett Wishall
  4. Sermon Prep: A Week in One Life – Stephen Um
  5. Foundation Documents – The Gospel Coalition
  6. Surprising Benefits of Theological Vision for Ministry – John Starke
  7. Preaching to the Collective Heart – Tim Keller
  8. Coram Deo Church Liturgy – Bob Thune (PDF)
  9. Churches and Buildings – Various Authors
  10. Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors
  11. Mental Illness and the Church – Jeremy Pierre
  12. 7 Reasons in Support of Consecutive Exposition of the Scripture – Clint Arnold
  13. What Tone Should Preachers Aim At? – John Piper
  14. 10 Questions for Expositors (category page with several posts) – Colin Adams
  15. Top 200 Preaching Resources – David Murray
  16. 7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from a Father – Barnabas Piper
  17. Eight Reasons We Preach – Peter Mead
  18. John Piper’s Preaching Course at Re:Train – John Piper
  19. Dale Ralph Davis on Preaching Christ in the OT – Collin Hansen
  20. Multisite, the Poker Tell and the Importance of Presence – Carl Trueman
  21. Leading the Church While Leading your Family – Bob Johnson
  22. 7 Tips to Be a More Interesting Preacher – Eric McKiddle
  23. A Plea for Profound Simplicity – David Murray
  24. How Seminarians Can Preach to Normal People (Part 2, Part 3)
  25. Preaching Christ from the OT: An Interview with Sidney Greidanus – Collin Hansen
  26. Preaching Christ in the Old Testament – The Gospel Coalition
  27. Triperspectivalism, Leadership, and Church Planting – Tim Brister
  28. How to Preach the Gospel from Every Part of the Bible – Fred Zaspel
  29. Giving and Receiving Criticism in Light of the Cross – Justin Taylor
  30. On Controversy – Nathan W. Bingham
  31. Unbelief in an Elder’s Children – Justin Taylor
  32. Sermon preparation – Ray Ortlund
  33. Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors – Thom Rainer
  34. A Conversation with Worship Pastors – The Resurgence
  35. The Case for the Senior Pastor – Greg Gilbert
  36. A Church Discipline Primer – 9Marks
  37. How Sermons Work – David Murray
  38. Preaching Christ in Every Sermon – Fred Malone
Life Ministry Theology

Effectively Shepherding Yourself and Others

If you are like me, then you have probably wondered how to be an effective self-shepherd. God’s family—the church—is absolutely essential and necessary to our growth. We cannot be Lone Ranger Christians. But we can’t always talk to a pastor or a friend when we feel defeated, and we are primarily responsible for our own progress, so we need to learn to be self-feeders and help others to be self-feeders as well. We need to learn how to be self-shepherds.

I recently read Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission, the newest book from Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. One of the most immediately helpful parts of the book (along with Chester’s You Can Change) is a section on how shepherd yourself and others.

Chester and Timmis say that in order to experience genuine transformation we must first be clear on the gospel. The gospel is not positive thinking, it is not good advice, and it is not law (legalism). When I need shepherding, and when I shepherd others, I cannot resort to these three alternatives to the gospel. I must give myself and others good news. The gospel is the good news that God in Christ has done for us what we cannot do on our own. He has redeemed us from sin, giving us a living hope, and empowers us by his Spirit to glorify him. Only this good news can transform us from the inside-out. The first way we shepherd is to preach this good news to ourselves and others over and over and over again.

Secondly, Chester and Timmis say that the gospel leads us to believe the following four essential, basic truths. As we preach the gospel to ourselves, we must apply these specific truths to our circumstances.

  • God is great, so I do not have to be in control (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 40:12; Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:11).
  • God is glorious, so I do not need to fear others (Ps. 18; 27:1-3; 34; 93:1; 119:120; Isa. 40:25).
  • God is good, so I do not need to look elsewhere (John 4:13-14; 7:37-39; Heb. 11:24-26).
  • God is gracious, so I do not need to prove myself (Neh. 9:17; Luke 15).

This is not, of course, everything about God we need to know. But these truths will be applicable to nearly every area of our lives.

Lord, help us as we seek to shepherd ourselves and others for your glory and our joy!

Life Theology

Where Did the Phrase, “Preach the Gospel to Yourself,” Come Frome?

From Drew Hunter:

So, where did it come from? Thankfully, it’s used all over the place these days. My hunch is that the person who put feet on it and therefore caused it to run throughout this generation is Jerry Bridges. Perhaps surprisingly, this theme wasn’t in his first and probably most well known book, The Pursuit of Holiness. It wasn’t until after writing this book that he began to more clearly see and stress the centrality of the gospel in the life of the Christian (See second paragraph here). Following that book, however, he began emphasizing the centrality of the gospel for everyday life and often used the phrase, “preach the gospel to yourself,” to express it.

While I think Bridges has promoted the phrase more than anyone, he got it from someone else. In the preface to The Discipline of Grace, a book wherein one of the chapters is titled, “Preach the Gospel to Yourself,” he says, “I… owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Dr. Jack Miller, from whom I acquired the expression, “Preach the gospel to yourself every day”

Read the whole thing.

HT: Brandon Levering


God’s Love Is Not ‘Unconditional’

What happens to the Gospel when idolatry themes are not grasped? “God loves you” typically becomes a tool to meet a need for self-esteem in people who feel like failures. The particular content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—”grace for sinners and deliverance for the sinned against”–is down-played or even twisted into “unconditional acceptance for the victims of others’ lack of acceptance.” Where “the Gospel” is shared, it comes across something like this: “God accepts you just as you are. God has unconditional love for you.” That is not the biblical Gospel, however. God’s love is not Rogerian unconditional positive regard writ large. A need theory of motivation—rather than an idolatry theory—bends the Gospel solution into “another gospel” which is essentially false.

The Gospel is better than unconditional love. The Gospel says, “God accepts you just as Christ is. God has ‘contraconditional’ love for you.” Christ bears the curse you deserve. Christ is fully pleasing to the Father and gives you His own perfect goodness. Christ reigns in power, making you the Father’s child and coming close to you to begin to change what is unacceptable to God about you. God never accepts me “as I am.” He accepts me “as I am in Jesus Christ.” The center of gravity is different. The true Gospel does not allow God’s love to be sucked into the vortex of the soul’s lust for acceptability and worth in and of itself. Rather, it radically decenters people—what the Bible calls “fear of the Lord” and “faith”—to look outside themselves.

– David Powlison, “Idols of the Heart and ‘Vanity Fair’,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 13, no. 2 (Winter 1995): 49; emphasis added.


Christian Counseling and God’s Transcendence

Millard Erickson on how God’s transcendence changes the way we counsel people:

We will look for genuinely transcendent working by God. Thus we will not expect only those things that can be accomplished by natural means…We will not neglect prayer for his guidance or special intervention. Thus, for example, Christian counseling will not differ from other types of counseling (naturalistic or humanistic) only in being preceded by a brief prayer. There will be the anticipation that God, in response to faith and prayer, will work in ways not humanly predictable or achievable.

– Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 345; emphasis added.