The Pastor: A Book Review
This review of The Pastor: His Call, Character, and Work first appeared in Ordained Servant: A Journal for Church Officers (2022 edition) published by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The Pastor: His Call, Character, and Work, by Faculty and Friends of ‘Old’ Princeton. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2020, x + 272 pages, $20.00.
From time to time I have discussed with other ministers what sorts of things they are assigning and reading with their pastoral interns. Over the course of the years many fine books and articles have found their way on and off that reading list. Today I am reviewing a wonderful little book that I will be commending to all my pastor friends not only to assign to their interns but also to pick up and read for themselves. The book is The Pastor: His Call, Character, and Work by Faculty and Friends of ‘Old’ Princeton.
For the bibliophiles out there, the book itself feels simple and refined. Published by Banner of Truth, the book is bound in hard cloth with gilt lettering, beautifully laid out, including a dust jacket, and has that lovely sort of spine that makes you glad to be holding a Banner book. The footprint is on the smaller side so it is not heavy in the hand, and with 272 pages it does not feel overwhelming. It is the sort of book that makes you want to pick it up on a Lord’s Day afternoon, and with the individual essays each standing on their own merit, it is easy to set down and come back to.
If the casing of the book is refined, it is exceeded in its refinement only by the richness of the content. Written by faculty and students of “old” Princeton, the book contains nine essays on the call, character, and work of pastoral ministry that are brimming not only with biblical erudition but with a deep sense of practical piety. The essay by William S. Plumer on “The Scripture Doctrine of a Call to the Ministry” will be particularly useful for younger men still wondering whether they might be called to the ministry, and what that call looks like. On the other hand, the essay by Archibald Alexander on “The Pastoral Office” will be particularly useful to reorient and recalibrate those of us who have been serving for many years.
One of the characteristics that sets this little book apart from so many others is the attention that is given to the importance of cultivating piety. Archibald Alexander contributes a useful essay “On the Importance of Aiming at Eminent Piety,” but, really, the theme is like a rich vein that courses through the entire book. In the concluding address, entitled “The Ministry We Need,” Nicholas Murray sums it up well, “No gifts, however splendid or attractive, can compensate for the lack of piety. … unless his heart is deeply imbued with the Spirit of Christ, he fails to accomplish many of the great ends for which the ministry was instituted” (213).
The emphasis on piety may lead us to ask with Paul “Who is sufficient for these things?” The book also leads us back to the sufficiency of the Great Shepherd, and the chapter on “The Lord Jesus Christ the Example of the Minister” by J. W. Alexander stands out as a real highlight. The book wonderfully balances both the convicting and comforting influences of the Spirit as Ashbel Green reminds us when he says, “I desire not to abate or soften any censure which a declaration of the truth may inflict. Let the truth do its office fairly with the consciences of us all” (207).
This is a book that will help to “let the truth do its office fairly” and is a wonderful little book that will serve both pastors and prospective pastors well.
Joel D. Fick is the pastor of Redemption Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, Florida, and also serves on the Committee on Christian Education. This post first appeared at Ordained Servant Online, May 2022.
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