Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation Today- Parallels between the 16th Century and Today

Alister McGrath’s Spirituality in an Age of Change: Rediscovering the Spirit of the Reformers is an excellent book, not just on the topic of spirituality but also in simply describing the importance and the value of the Reformation. In the following quote, McGrath describes the state of the church in the Middle Ages in a way that makes so many obvious parallels to the state of the church today. As the quote ends, the point is made that just as the problems are similar, so the cure is similar:
“A central theme of the Reformation spirituality was that the church had lost its way during the Middle Ages. The traditional concerns of the church had become overwhelmed by the involvement of the church in the secular order. In our own day and age, such involvement is generally held to be an excellent and desirable thing. The history of the church during the Middle Ages, however, perhaps sounds a note of caution, indicating what can happen through overextension of resources and personal commitment to the world. During the Middle Ages, the papacy saw its secular powers reach new heights. The ecclesiastical banking system came close to being the medieval equivalent of a modern multinational corporation. Indeed, the pope who condemned Martin Luther in 1520 was a prominent member of the Florentine Medici family, who had bought the papacy outright over the heads of a number of more distinguished and eligible rivals.

But in the middle of this experimentation with political and financial power, there were signs of decay. The arteries of the church became hardened through over involvement in the world. A price was paid for this apparent success. What, it was increasingly asked, have the splendors of the Renaissance papacy to do with the humble figure of Jesus of Nazareth? There was a widespread perception within the church, often at high levels, that a redefinition of its aims and goals was required. A new model was required. And for many—including those who would become the
proponents of the Reformation—that model lay with the early church, as it can be
seen emerging in the New Testament.” (pg.66-67)

Does this not sound strikingly similar? There is plenty of talk about the political power of the church in America today, and its financial prosperity general speaking is clear. Yet, where is its spiritual power displayed by significantly changed lives and counter-cultural communities of faith displaying by their lives and words a credible witness to the gospel? Yes, there are churches like this thankfully, but it certainly is not the norm.

McGrath argues that the Reformation was a returning to the roots of the faith, in an age when the history and roots of the faith had largely been lost. This is true again in our day. What is esteemed too often is what is newest rather than what is biblical, and there is little knowledge of or regard for the historic witness of the church. McGrath writes:

"To return to one’s roots was to recollect one’s birthright. It was to regain the title deeds of faith. It was to catch a fresh vision of possibilities. It was to overhear the conversations of the apostles. It was to allow a tired and weary faith to be refreshed. It was to return to an oasis from which the pilgrimage into the wilderness had begun. And it was to ignite a powder keg under the comfortable yet stagnant certainties of late medieval religion.” (emphasis mine, pg.68)

May we have a serious return to the scriptures so that the church today might be reinvigorated. Of course, this will disturb comfortable yet stagnant certainties of our day. May we choose obedience over comfort.

Reformation Day!

It is Reformation Day again, and we should be reminded of God’s graciousness in reviving His church in the past so that we might be encouraged to pray for Him to do it again! 488 years ago on this day a typical act by an obscure German monk was used by God to stir into motion the Protestant Reformation, in my opinion the greatest revival since Pentecost. This reformation centered on the rediscovery of the Gospel. Of course it resulted in a renewed understanding of the church, Christian living, etc. but it all started with a renewed grasp of the biblical gospel.

We need such a renewal today. There is much confusion in the church today over what the gospel truly is. This can be seen even in our language. Rather than ‘gospel’ we more regularly hear of ‘the plan of salvation.’ Surely the phrase can be used appropriately, but why has it largely replaced ‘gospel.’ It too easily suggests a mechanistic approach which is really only directed at the unconverted. In contrast the Gospel is not simply a plan but a proclamation of news- what God has done in Christ- and is both the power of God unto salvation and the basis for living the new life which is to be found in Christ.

I hope to write more on the language we use for the gospel, but my point here is that we need to make sure we (and our people) grasp well the basic truths of the gospel. We need to see that we must understand the bad news of our condition in sin before we will ever see the gospel as good news. We need to understand what problem the gospel claims to address- is it the need for self-esteem, the answer for loneliness, the answer for family trouble, or is it something deeper? And we need to understand how the cross stands at the center of this proclamation. How does the crucifixion of Jesus make the forgiveness of sins possible? Far too many evangelistic presentations around today ‘work’ without any reference to the cross.

Romans 3 addresses all these issues. Perhaps this is why Luther himself referred to this passage as ‘the chief point, and the very central place of the Epistle, and of the whole Bible.’ Here is a link to my attempt to preach this passage on a previous Reformation Sunday with these concerns in mind (scroll down to the sermon on Romans 3).

(Picture: Courtesy Wartburg Foundation, Eisenach / Gotha Druck, Wechmar)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Vodie Baucham on Church and Family

Vodie Baucham has been here at Union the last few days for our annual Faith in Practice Conference. With all that has been going on in my family I was only able to attend the last session (today), and it was excellent. Though I have never had a personal conversation with Vodie I feel like he is a kindred spirit from the things I hear him address. He stressed in these messages the place of the family in the church, describing the church as a family of families rather than the typical model of church as a corporation- singing my song!

You can find all three messages on Union’s website. This link will take you to the main page of the audio messages and you can just look for the three messages by Vodie. At the moment they are on the top of the list since they are the most recent. I encourage you to check them out.

I am thankful to have Vodie Baucham speaking out so strongly and eloquently on the necessity of seeing the church as family and for the importance of our families, discipling our own children, etc.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Ponderings from Fellow Pastor

I want to direct your attention to some writings from my friend and fellow pastor Barry Maxwell. Barry is an especially gifted writer, who also thinks deeply, has a pastor’s heart and has walked through some of the tough valleys of pastoral ministry. All of this shows up in the short pieces of his which his wife, Amy, has posted on their website . I am edified by reading Barry’s stuff and I think you will be, too.

As a starter, let me recommend the one entitled, “On Loving Ministry.” Here is an excerpt:

Loving ministry is more than loving the act of preaching, teaching or counseling. Loving the idea of preaching is a love for words. That’s a love for having folks listen to you. Truly loving ministry means loving preaching so much that you invite hell to the ring to meet God’s power. And the fight is not waged with mere words, but with power. There is no diplomacy in Christian ministry—only artillery. And loving ministry means fighting a real enemy with sticks and bats, spikes and knives, not negotiating with it with clever speeches. Loving ministry is not merely loving the fruits of ministry, but getting our hands dirty in the soil to plant the seeds.

Loving ministry means devotion to see God’s power transform lives and overcome ultimate evil ultimately. Loving ministry is to welcome the worst in people because that is where God is at work. Loving ministry is fighting in the ring with hardened husbands and broken wives, cheating spouses and damaged children, abusive families and oppressive regimes. Christian ministry is not being impressed by tri-color, glossy brochures but being compelled by war-torn, blood-stained letters crying for reinforcements. It is a life spent behind enemy lines in shallow trenches.

As pastors, our lives are devoted preach words, teach words, arrange words, counsel words and write words. Yet, Christ’s church is not led by clever wordsmiths, but by men abandoned to swim in the deep with bloodthirsty sharks. If not careful, pastoral ministry can become a mere lifelong accumulation of words. And when the words fail we fail. At that point our effectiveness is only as strong as our vocabulary.

Thanks for being willing to share your ponderings with all of us, Barry. May the Lord continue to bless and use you for His church.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

More Thoughts in the Face of Loss

As I mentioned in the previous post, we are dealing with two recent deaths of family members. Another truth that has been reinforced for us in this time has been the importance of the local body, the community of faith. People from our church, Cornerstone Community Church, as well as some other Christian friends, have ministered to us in so many different ways. Different people kept our boys, brought food, helped out around our house, filled in gaps while I was gone, encouraged, prayed etc. People in my wife’s family began to comment on how special our church family must be simply by watching and hearing what people had done. Even in the visitation line when I would be introduced to someone, fairly often the person doing the introducing would say, “And they really have a special church family back home.” What a testimony to a watching world!

The importance of our corporate worship also came up. With two sisters dying unexpectedly, fear can set in, for the other sisters especially. Then with many people, well intentioned, saying, “I just don’t know how you are going to be able to make it through this!”, my wife had a difficult evening after the visitation. As she wrestled with this, words from a hymn we sing came back to her mind:
“From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny”

This reminder that her life rests in God’s good and sovereign hands bolstered her and gave her peace. While these other deaths caught us by surprise, God was not surprised. And whatever is to come tomorrow will also be mediated by this God. She knew these truths but being reminded by the words of a song she regularly sings with her church, gave her strength. Oh the value of our corporate worship in helping us to persevere- and the value of songs with substance!

This Is for Keeps

I wrote this a few days before I was able to post it:

I am back in my wife’s hometown for the second time in three weeks. My wife is one of four daughters. Three weeks ago I was here with my wife for the funeral of her sister closest to her in age. Here we are now for the funeral of her oldest sister. Two entirely unexpected deaths, ages 38 and 54. Many thoughts and emotions arise in such a situation, but one that certainly comes to mind is the brevity and uncertainty of life- no man knows his time. This truth leads directly to another: the desperate importance of clear, faithful preaching of the gospel. Having death interrupt you so unexpectedly so often in such a short period of time reminds me that this is for keeps. The week in, week out teaching and preaching matters desperately. We all know that, but it is easy to lose sight of that fact, to lose intensity. If we love souls we must labor for the purity of the church and for the faithful proclamation of the Gospel. Who knows who is listening today who might not be here to listen tomorrow.

I will have the opportunity to preach at this funeral and my primary objective will be to preach the gospel. Though situations differ, I think we should seek to preach the gospel at every funeral. Of course a word of comfort is needed, but real comfort is anchored in the gospel. At these times people are confronted with eternity even if they typically hide from it. We must lay out the claims of the gospel and clearly call people to repent and believe.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stewart Again- Strength in Weakness

Here is another quote from Stewart’s Thine is the Kingdom.
Particularly if you find your self discouraged in your ministry as you regularly see reminders of your own weakness, read on. Read on, and be encouraged. Read on, and exult in the God who displays Himself through human weakness. Then rise up in faith that God will manifest His grace through your weakness, and Christ will build His church.

“This is the answer to the disconsolate moods in which, looking at the Church and seeing its crippling, often stupid divisions, its bourgeois complacency, its failures pathetic enough to make the angels weep, we begin to ask—‘Is this indeed the instrument of the mission of Christ? Is this to go out among the heathen as “the arm of Christ’s presence”?’ It is the answer also to the despairing moods in which we turn in upon ourselves: ‘I the ambassador of this royal Jesus? I to wear the Christian name before the world? God pity me—poor earthen vessel—utterly unworthy!’ This is the answer—that always it is upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us, not merely in spite of our ordinaries and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them. It is a thrilling discovery to make, and it can revolutionize our missionary outlook completely. For clearly, if this fact be true, the Church that believes it can be irresistible anywhere, and its mission for Christ against the powers of darkness becomes bright with an unquenchable hope; and the individual Christian who lives by it is undefeatable. Nothing can defeat a Church or a soul that takes, not its strength, but its weakness, and offers that to be God’s weapon. It was the way of William Carey and Francis Xavier and Paul the apostle. ‘Lord, here is my human weakness: I dedicate it to Thee for Thy glory!’ This is the strategy to which there is no retort. This is the victory which overcomes the world.” (pgs.23-24)

James S Stewart on Missions

I recently read an old out of print book I had found in a used book sale. I had picked up the book because I saw the author was James S. Stewart- the famous Scottish preacher and New Testament scholar, not the American actor! Stewart has been well known for his book on preaching amongst other things. So, when I found a little hardback book by him on the biblical basis for missions I picked it up. Having now read it, I must say that I think it is a gold mine! Stewart is great with his words and here he is communicating powerful truths as much applicable to our day as the 1950’s in which he first delivered them. In fact, in some of his statements you could say he is a prequel to Piper. Here is one quote just to start with:
“One reason, wrote P.T. Forsyth, ‘why the Church is too little missionary is that it is established on good terms with its world instead of being a foreign mission from another.’ The powers of darkness will never be scattered by a Christendom infiltrated by the enemy …. for only to a Church radically different from the world will the world consent to listen; and the whole cause of the Kingdom of God, now as then, is at stake in that appeal.” (pg.19-20)

This connects with so much I have sought to say (not nearly as well) over the years. The labor for the purity of the church is not separate from the work of missions and is not a drain on the work of missions. It is vitally linked to the work of missions! This also speaks to the desire to look and sound like the culture. While of course we should work to remove unnecessary barriers, we must remember that the church was never supposed to look just like the world. It is the difference which makes a difference.

The title of the book is Thine is the Kingdom. It has been out of print for some time though you can find old copies on the web. I have initiated contact with some publishers and will be having further conversations about getting this book reprinted. I plan to post some more quotes soon, If you think you would be interested in this book being available let me know, and I’ll let these publishers know of grass roots interest.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Oversight of Ourselves

Fairly recently I received this in an email from a friend:

I have just recently found out that another friend of mine in the ministry has had an affair. How frustrating and scary! I really never would have thought that it would be this guy. This is the second friend in the past two years.
If only this was an unusual thing to hear. If you have been in ministry or training very long you have probably seen and heard this same sort of occurrence yourself. In addition to being heart rending as you consider the one who has fallen and his family, church, etc., it is also personally sobering- especially when it is someone you respected and never expected to do something like this. It scares you because you think, “Could I do this?” Of course the answer to any question about whether you could, possibly do any sin is “Yes.” As Calvin said, “The seed of every sin lies dormant in the human heart.” Or to quote Spurgeon:
‘There is tender enough in the saint who is nearest to heaven to kindle another hell if God should permit a spark to fall upon it. In the best of men, there is an infernal and well-nigh infinite depth of depravity. Some Christians never seem to find this out. I almost wish they might not do so, for it is a very painful discovery for anyone to make: but it has the beneficial effect of making us cease trusting in ourselves’
We should take note of these things and see that they scare us well, that we might be delivered from self-assuredness and that we might be painfully aware of our desperate need for grace and the accountability of godly men- in short that we might be reminded of our desperate need for the oversight of our souls.

Richard Baxter referred to this as the oversight of ourselves. Pastors often do not have anyone else overseeing them. This is one of the benefits of plurality in leadership. Brother, if you are out there without any real accountability (read: people who will ask you hard questions and follow up on you) get some quick! For the sake of your own soul, for the sake of your family and the church you serve, for the sake of the name of God, find some accountability.

Franchising the church

Brett Maragni, a pastor and friend of mine from college days, has written 3 insightful posts on the franchising of the church. The link will take you to the most recent post which has links to the previous two. I encourage you to check them out. His basic point is to examine a new trend of popular pastors creating new branches of their church in places as far away as in other states! Even while these ‘branches’ would have local leadership, surely something is lost when the ‘preaching pastor’ is someone from an entirely different community whom you will never see in daily life, and he does not live in and experience the same community the people do. This is another trend towards the ‘impersonalization’ of the church.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Hire Hitler!

With this being the 60th anniversary year of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s execution, Union University held a special chapel panel today to discuss and contemplate Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy. It was a great chapel and I assume the audio will soon be available from Union's Audio Webpage .

One thing that stood out to me concerning pastoral ministry occurred when one speaker described Adolf Hitler’s charisma, how he captivated crowds with his mesmerizing speeches and how efficient he was with government. I began to think of the things most often listed as key requirements that people have for their pastor. Here is a list of things that show up most often in such discussions:
- Great public speaker
- Makes us feel better
- Charisma, powerful persona
- Great leadership skills- meaning he can run an efficient organization
- Vision for where we are going
- Ability to attract new members, especially young people
- Patriotic

If these are the characteristics we want, then Hire Hitler! Hitler was all of these things! He excelled in each of these categories as historians agree. Being a ‘leader’ is all the rage, and Hitler’s typical title, “F├╝hrer,” simply means “Leader.” Is not something drastically wrong when such a man fulfills the typical expectations of a pastor! How desperately we need to return to the Scriptures to gain the right perspective of the pastorate! In fact not one of these characteristics is a biblical requirement for the pastorate. They are more akin to the ideas of Paul’s opponents in 2 Corinthians than anything else.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Chrysostom on the labor of preaching

I have found this quote from Chrysostom helpful in describing the serious toil involved in right preaching and the place of the church in aiding such an effort.

“Preaching really entails hard work, and this fact Paul made plain when he said: ‘Let the presbyters who rule well be held worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching.’ But you are responsible for making this toil light or heavy. If you despise my words or, though you do not despise them, do not embody them in your deeds, my toil will be heavy, because I am laboring fruitlessly and in vain.
But if you pay attention and make my words manifest in your deeds, I shall not even be aware of the perspiration, for the fruit produced by my work will not permit me to feel the laboriousness of the toil. And so, if you wish to spur on my zeal and not to extinguish it or make it weaker, show me the fruit of it, I beseech you, in order that, viewing the leafy crops, sustained by hopes of a rich harvest and calculating my wealth, I may not be sluggish in engaging in this promising task.”

Saint John Chrysostom, “Homily 22 (John 2:4-10),” ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, vol. 33, The Fathers of the Church (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc., 1957), 212.

Luther on doing not just knowing

In his book on Reformation spirituality, Spirituality in an Age of Change (a good read), Alister McGrath records the following quote from Martin Luther:
Great scholars who read a lot, and own lots of books, are not the best Christians…. The best Christians are those who do from a free and willing heart what the scholars read about in books and teach others to do. We must therefore get worried when, in our own day and age, people become scholars through writing lots of books- but do not have the slightest idea what it means to be a Christian.
Luther clearly is no anti-intellectual, but neither does he have a place for glorying in our knowledge or for thinking that being able to define and explain Christian truth equates actually living out those truths. This is a good reminder for me- so perhaps it is for others as well. In an age when we for so long missed out on good, substantive theology, we now rejoice in truths we have learned. We take great delight in these truths; we enjoy talking them over, thinking them through and sharing them with others. And rightly so. However, let us be reminded that this is not enough. At the end of the day if these truths do not lead to concrete, every day practice they are nothing. If our knowledge does not lead to tangible practice we actually slander the truths themselves. Being a good Christian certainly entails knowing certain things but it also means doing something about it. It is little use to be able to give an informed exegesis of the Lord’s prayer if we are not faithful in prayer. It is dangerously easier to speak in a theologically informed, profound way about the necessity of holiness than it is to really fight against temptation. We must beware the temptation of resting in our reading without the doing.

The true theologian is one who has indeed thought and wrestled with scripture well but he is also one who has experienced in his life these truths. McGrath follows the Luther quote with these words:
Luther may not have foreseen the academic and scholarly explosion of the modern period; nevertheless, he predicted with grim accuracy the problem that has resulted. The word theologian has come to mean an academic professional, one whose credentials are established by his publication record. For Luther, that word was reserved for those who have experienced, and know they have experienced, the grace of the living God.
What a good word. I am tempted to desire more advancement as an academic professional than to desire advancement in actually living these truths out. In fact I can be tempted to wish I could withdraw from actually serving the Church so that I might better establish my credentials with a publishing record. God save me from such narcissistic, self-centered motives that I might truly be of use to the Master.

On Critiquing the Church

In her essay, "The Fiction Writer and His Country," Flannery
O'Connor quoted Wyndham Lewis as saying, "If I write about a hill
that is rotting, it is because I despise rot." She uses this quote
to explain that when she (and others) write about the ills of society,
it is not because they rejoice in these ills. Rather, it is because
they despise these ills and seek to change them. The same is true for
those of us in leadership in the church. If we love the church we must
speak of the ills and errors within her. But we must also make clear
that we do so not because we want to defame the church, but because we desire the purity of the church- because we, like our Master, are willing to spend and be spent for the purification of the Church (Eph 5:26-27). "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Prov 27:5-6a). We must not hide our eyes from error in our midst. But we must speak in love, seeking redemption remembering Whose Bride this is.

(BTW: O'Connor's essay, "The Fiction Writer and His Country", can be read with much profit thinking of parallels for the church and its pastors.)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gimmicks or the Gospel

Fairly recently Tim Ellsworth commented on a news report on a recent Benny Hinn crusade. Watching or hearing about Benny Hinn both angers and saddens me- because of the impact on souls. While much could be said about Hinn, one of the most alarming things in the news story is the comment of a local pastor who was supportive of the Hinn crusade. The final paragraph of the story reads:

“As pastor of a cozy 100-member church in Denver, McHendry harbors no envy for his astonishingly successful counterpart on stage. Sure, he chuckled, "When he lines up the wheelchairs and they're all shiny, and now the people can walk - c'mon, Benny. But I think that showmanship is necessary to reach some people for God.”

First, whatever was meant by the writer, “cozy” is not a complimentary description of a church in my mind. More significantly, however, I was stunned by the statement that “showmanship is necessary to reach some people for God.” While many evangelical pastors would not support Benny Hinn, many do subscribe to the idea that showmanship is necessary to reach some people for God. We may prefer more acceptable gimmicks than ‘healings’, but it is evident that we think gimmicks are the way. We expose by our actions that we fail to believe that the gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). Our infatuation with gimmicks makes us sound like Paul’s opponents in Corinth to whom Paul says, “I know people are asking for signs and wisdom, but we refuse. We simply preach Christ crucified, the wisdom and power of God.” (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25). Paul says he has nothing to do with crafty techniques or watering down the gospel, but rather “by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2).

If we seriously desire the salvation of souls, let us be clear: showmanship is not necessary for reaching people for God. What is necessary is clear manifestation of truth, i.e. the gospel.

Suffering and a Resource

To follow on from the last post on speaking to our people about suffering, I wanted to mention a helpful resource. Kairos Journal is an online journal exclusively for pastors, and it is free. It is led by Greg Thornbury, who will be known to many of you. You have to register, and a third party referent is required to confirm that you are a pastor. The journal’s mission, in their own words, is:

"Kairos Journal seeks to embolden, educate, equip, and support pastors and church leaders as they strive to transform the moral conscience of the culture and restore the prophetic voice of the Church."

In recent months KJ has done articles on Aake Green, a Swedish pastor, who in 2004 was convicted of hate speech and sentenced to prison because of his sermon where he simply stated that the Bible declares homosexuality to be sinful. It is an amazing story worthy to be read and told. The courage and conviction of this small church pastor is exemplary. If we love souls we must be willing to speak truth- particularly the truth which is despised and ignored.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Place of Suffering

As we consider pastoral ministry (as well as what it means to follow Christ in general) in our setting of American evangelicalism one element which is woefully absent from our discussion is suffering. Suffering is as conspicuously absent from the discussion in our churches as it is obviously present in the New Testament. If we are truly going to shepherd souls we must speak to them about suffering. In my first year of teaching New Testament survey I read each NT book ahead of the lecture in order to note the themes I would point out. One thing that surprised me was that suffering showed up prominently in every book- every book! How is it then that it is so little addressed? Of course one reason is that too often our sermons are not derived from scripture. Much more could be said about this but let me point out a recent article in World Magazine written by G E Veith entitled, "Praying for Persecution".
Pastors would also do well to read the article on suffering in Pastoral ministry by Scott Hafemann, A Call to Pastoral Suffering: The Need for Recovering Paul's Model of Ministry in 2 Corinthians.
Faithful shepherds must prepare their people for reality.

Oversight of Souls - Initial Post

Eight years ago shortly after the conclusion of my first pastorate, I recorded the following thought:

“The crying need of our day is for holy men of God pastoring the church of God and being diligent in the oversight of souls” (8/7/97)

I don’t remember now exactly the events which prompted the writing down of this thought, but I have kept it with me on a sticky note through the years as I have become increasingly convinced of the point. Of course you could describe the need of our day in various ways, but I am firmly convinced that this statement does get at least to one of the primary needs for the renewal of the church in our day. That the modern Western church is in desperate need of renewal I take as a given. The things needing addressing for such a renewal are manifold; but, this issue, the restoration of a true, biblical understanding of overseeing souls, I think captures many of them under one heading. This has become a consuming passion of mine, and I have started this blog as one part of an effort to address this issue.

I intend to write as a pastor for pastors, addressing various issues from the angle of the pastorate. I think many things impinge on thinking about the pastorate, from literature to poetry to current events to exegetical and theological musings. If this will prove useful to any laboring in the oversight of souls, or to encourage some in the office of the pastor to actually begin to labor in overseeing souls, then this will be worthwhile.