Concerning the True Care of Souls

Weight 1.0 lbs
Dimensions 8.8 × 5.75 × 1 in
ISBN 9780851519845

Cloth-bound, eBook (ePub & Kindle), Cloth-bound & eBook (ePub & Kindle)


Church Leadership, Preaching & Teaching, Pastoral Theology/Pastoral Helps

Original Pub Date


Banner Pub Date

Jan 1, 2009

Page Count





‘This book was Bucer’s effort to reintroduce church discipline, establish multiple-elder rule, and maintain the practice of evangelical penance in Strasbourg…[His] concern for the church and conception of pastoral ministry are historically important and personally challenging.’ — KEVIN DEYOUNG

‘…A 470 year old gem, written by an often forgotten pastor/scholar whom David Steinmetz calls “next to Luther and Melanchthon, the most important leader of Protestantism in Germany.” Moreover, this 16th century manual of Reformed pastoral theology is a powerful corrective to the wrongheaded approach to ministry which has plagued the American evangelical scene for the past three decades. Indeed, here we are shown a rare portrait of true pastoral care. It should be required reading for pastors and ordinands alike.’ — JON PAYNE

Book Description

For more than twenty-five years Martin Bucer was the undisputed leader of the Protestant Reformation in the city of Strasbourg. Yet he never managed to achieve all that he wished due to the opposition of the city’s political leaders. In 1549 he moved at the invitation of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to England, where he spent the last few years of his life as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

Ten years earlier, in 1538, Bucer produced what he called ‘this little book’. A Reformation handbook of pastoral theology, it sets out his ideal of a godly Christian society, and was ‘written solely for the Lord’s glory and the improvement of his church at this time when Christ’s sheep are so deplorably scattered’. He commended it ‘to the Christian consideration of all God’s children, asking only that nothing should be judged according to carnal standards, but everything according to the word of the Lord.’ And added, ‘May the Lord grant that it will be of much use for his kingdom.’

Though largely rejected by the government of Strasbourg, Bucer’s Concerning the True Care of Souls met with much more success further afield and was to exercise a vast influence in later history. In Hesse, for example, a church order was introduced based on Bucer’s ideas, and in Strasbourg itself they were implemented in the French refugee community pastored from 1538 to 1541 by the young John Calvin, who had a great respect for Bucer and worked closely with him.

Nearly 500 years later we can still benefit greatly from Bucer’s spiritual wisdom as he sets out, in a vivid and persuasive way, biblical principles for church life, ministry, and discipline. Translated into English for the first time through the labours of Peter Beale, the publishers send it forth, re-echoing Bucer’s prayer: ‘May the Lord grant that it will be of much use for his kingdom.’

Table of Contents Expand ↓

1 The nature of the church 1
2 Christ’s rule in his church 9
3 How the Lord carries out his pastoral office and the work of our salvation in his church through his ordained ministers 17
4 The various ministers the Lord has and uses in his church: the ministry of teaching and spiritual discipline, and the ministry to the needs of the body 25
5 How and by whom elders are to be chosen and installed, and the choosing and installation of ministers 41
6 What the principal work and activity of carers of souls and ministers are to be for the flock of Christ in general and individual members in particular 69
7 How the lost sheep are to be sought 75
8 How the stray sheep are to be restored 91
9 How the hurt and wounded sheep are to be bound up and healed, and the imposition of penance and exclusion from the Lord’s table in the case of those who have in some matter grievously sinned 97
10 How the weak sheep are to be strengthened 163
11 How the healthy and strong sheep are to be guarded and fed, and the exclusion of those who trouble the church and refuse to listen and mend their ways 173
12 The obedience of Christ’s sheep
13 Summary of chapters 211
[Appendix 1] 215
[Appendix 2] 217


2 testimonials for Concerning the True Care of Souls

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  1. Ben House

    A great example of Banner’s work of reprinting theological classics is the book Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer (pronounced Boot-zer). We often think of the Reformation as the work of Luther and Calvin with a few names, like Zwingli or Knox thrown in. Often, fellow Reformers like Bucer or Henry Bullinger get billed as part of the background chorus of the earth shaking events of the 1500s. But a closer look at the history and writings shows that Protestants could have been called Bullingerists and Bucerians rather than Calvinists and Lutherans.

    In the past, this particular volume by Bucer was available in German or Latin, but it is now available in English, thanks to Peter Beale. For students of the Reformation, this is an important primary source document. But its value is far beyond that of mere historical research. This book is a how-to manual for pastors and elders. The great Reformation doctrines like Justification by Faith and the actions such as putting Bibles into the hands of the people were great, but inadequate. God established churches as means of ministering to and building up and protecting those who name Christ.

    The German word Seelsorge is translated as Soul Care. Pastors and elders are in charge of soul care. Bucer said, “the faithful ministers of Christ must not lightly give up on anyone.” The book begins with the importance of churches having multiple elders. These men are to use their varied gifts to see to the spiritual needs of the congregation.

    Bucer divides the tasks of ministry into 5 parts:

    1. “To lead to Christ our Lord and into His communion those who are still estranged from him.” This translates as evangelism.
    2. “To restore those who had once been brought to Christ and into his church but have been drawn away again through the affairs of the flesh or false doctrine.” There are lots of people who grew up in church but who abandoned the faith. Soul care means calling upon, convicting, and exhorting those straying sheep.
    3. “To assist in the true reformation of those who while remaining in the church of Christ have grievously sinned and fallen.” I have often said that the church is not a fitness center. It is an emergency ward in the hospital.
    4. “To re-establish true Christian strength and health those who, while persevering in the fellowship of Christ and not doing anything particularly or grossly wrong, have become somewhat feeble and sick in the Christian life.” This so describes where so many of us are, or have been, or will be. We may not be worshiping false gods or getting drunk, but our spiritual walk has become a crawl, at best.
    5. “To protect from all offense and falling away and continually encourage in all good things those who stay with the flock and in Christ’s sheep pen without grievously sinning or becoming weak and sick in their Christian walk.” This is a great reminder that even the strongest and best Christians still need to hear, be taught, be reminded, and shepherded.

    The book takes each of these five areas and devotes attention to ministering to people whose lives fit each category. The longest chapter in the book (Chapter 9) is called “How the Hurt and Wounded Sheep are to be Bound Up and Healed.” It is an elaboration of the third point above; that is, it deals with people who have sinned and fallen.

    Bucer uses the word “penance” quite often and freely in this section. At first, I thought he was still holding on to some Roman Catholic theology. Bucer’s use of the word is different. Too often churches have one of two inadequate responses to sin. On the one hand, some simply forgive and forget. On the other hand, some excommunicate and forget. Bucer’s focus is on restoration. Sinners sometimes have to pay a price, even from those who have forgiven them. Time, testing, and discipling are needed. I know from personal and pastoral experience that this is not easy or pleasant. But it is seelsorge or soul care.

    Bucer’s book is not one that will delight you with its wit, style, or illustrations. Often, it is Scripture verses followed by plain application. The content is unadorned and plain spoken. That is what was needed in Bucer’s day. Likewise, it is what is needed in our day.

  2. Robert Norman

    Wonderful replication. If you’re in ministry you need this book on your shelf. It is brutally honest and you need that.

    Please Banner of Truth, work on getting the rest of Bucer’s works translated into English as a complete set. 🙂

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