I graduated from college in 1970 and went into Christian parachurch ministry. I worked first with students and then with laymen. I was heavily involved with parachurch ministry for nine years, long enough to see that while the parachurch groups did many good things, they were not the MAIN THING--that was the local church, the apple of God's eye.
I appealed to my local church in 1979 as to whether my subjective, inward call to the gospel/pastoral ministry was confirmed by them. I knew that if one thinks he has the gift of teaching but no one has the gift of listening to him, he probably does not have the gift of preaching!! My church readily confirmed their opinion that I had the requisite gifts and graces to go to seminary, receive more training in how to handle the Word, and then go into the ministry of the local church.
So my inward, subjective sense of call was matched by the outward, objective recognition of that call by my local church. Though American Christians might not recognize this, Christianity, especially the gospel ministry, is not the haven for entrepreneurs or "Lone Ranger" types.
From 1981 until 2012, I was pastoring in two local churches here in the Atlanta area. I had much to learn about the Bible, about leadership, about shepherding the souls of believers, about evangelism, about discipleship, about church history,about systematic theology, about counseling people from the Word of God, about biblical theology, about historical theology, about missions, about leading and loving my wife and children, etc, etc. etc.
Over that period from 1970-2012 I had to face and overcome by the grace of God many obstacles and adversities. Obstacles and adversities are God's prescribed means of exercising His saints. I would have stayed a 'boy of God' had not our Lord superintended my life to face myriads of problems and heartaches and to persevere.
So from 1970 until the Fall of 2012, I was in ministry.
(Since my 'retirement' I have been in ministry to pastors who need encouragement, friendship, a listening ear, exhortation, sympathy, rebuke, and lots of other things.
I seek to emulate Barnabas in the New Testament who
came alongside men and helped them farther down the road of the Christian life--Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) and John Mark. How much of the New Testament was written by men Barnabas had encouraged and helped! Though his name is not so much a household name like Peter or Paul or John, nevertheless, he was mightily used by God to further the building the Kingdom of God.
Today I want to encourage weary and discouraged pastors. I want to do this by recommended several books that if read in order, prayerfully and humbly, will go a long way to restoring one's joy and faith and hope in Christ, to regain strength for the ministry and persevering grace for the long haul. Pastor, take several months (or a study leave of several weeks) and prayerfully read these books and see if the Lord does not refresh you and set your feet back on a solid path!
BOOKS ON OUR GOD AND HIS HOLY WORD:
Michael Reeves, DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY; IVP--an
infectious treatment of our great One In Three God.
The mighty truth of God's Tri-unity is singular basis
for reality and Christianity. Prepare to be refreshed!
James Packer, KNOWING GOD; IVP--a classic since its
first printing in the early 70's, KNOWING GOD has
countless believers how to think about God and
what does it actually mean to know Him! One can
know much about God and godliness but not really
know Him or be close to Him!
Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD; NavPress--this book is a
great sanity saver. Jerry wrote it while his first wife
was dying of cancer. Is God really sovereign over
everything? Does He really know everything such
that He missed nothing and is never surprised? Is
He really loving toward His children at all times, in
all circumstances? Is He really holy, holy, holy such
that He is never tempted to sin or be sinful towards
us? Well taught and well applied!
Geoff Thomas, THE SURE WORD OF GOD; Reformation
Heritage--why read sermons on the Bible? Because
they are great sermons, powerful doctrine preached
in the power of the Spirit. What a privilege to preach
BOOKS ON THE GOSPEL AND OUR CALLING:
Jerry Bridges, THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE; NavPress--
Jerry studied the atonement in the New Testament
and shows us everything Christ accomplished for His
people. A primer for some, a review for others, or
powerful jumper cables for cold hearts!!
James Packer and Mark Dever, IN MY PLACE
CONDEMNED HE STOOD (Celebrating the Glory of
the Atonement); Crossway--great articles by Packer,
a CHRISTIANITY TODAY article by Dever, a fantastic
bibliography by Ligon Duncan--everything you ever
wanted in a powerful little book!
Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington, THE BOOKENDS OF
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE; Crossway--practically applying
the message of the New Testament to one's heart
every day--the imputed righteousness of Christ and
the power of the Holy Spirit to change your life.
Charles Bridges, THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY (with An
Inquiry into the Causes of is Inefficiency); Banner
of Truth--"the revival of the Church seems to be
closely connected with the condition of its ministry"
says the dust jacket. Along with J. C. Ryle, Bridges
was one of the great and good men in the
evangelical group of the Church of England in the
19th century. His books are still in print. This
book is a classic. Section division tell the tale of this
powerful study--PART 1--GENERAL VIEW OF THE
CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; PART 2--GENERAL CAUSES
OF THE LACK OF SUCCESS IN THE CHRISTIAN
MINISTRY; PART 3--CAUSES OF MINISTERIAL
INEFFICIENCY CONNECTED WITH OUR PERSONAL
CHARACTER; PART 4--THE PUBLIC WORK OF THE
CHRISTIAN MINISTRY; PART 5--THE PASTORAL
WORK OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. If one is
spiritually refreshed, then knowing clearly what
one's duty is is quite helpful.
Martyn Lloyd-Jonea, THE PLIGHT OF MAN AND THE
POWER OF GOD; Eerdmans--given in Scotland to
ministerial students during World War II, these
lectures are a powerful exposition of the early
chapters of Romans. The only remedy for man's
critical condition is the gospel--preached in the
power of the Holy Spirit.
Joel Beeke, ENCOURAGEMENT FOR TODAY'S PASORS;
Reformation Heritage Books--a great tonic for tired
and weary pastors, worn down by sin and the
conflicts of ministry. Beeke finds great help amidst
our Puritan forbearers. A bracing tonic I loved.
Kent and Barbara Hughes, LIBERATING MINISTRY FROM
THE SUCCESS SYNDROME; Crossway--years ago I
read Kent and Barbara Hughes account of Kent's
'Dark Night of the Soul" and how he was barely able
to hang on to his faith. That is all covered in the 35
page opening section. He felt like a failure. Statistics
showed him to be a failure. God had let him down--
or had He? The middle part of the book is learning
the true nature of biblical success--faithfulness,
serving, loving, believing, praying, holiness and
attitude. All these together meant for biblical
success. Part 3 is Encouragements--from God, from
the call, for the Ordinary, from Fellow Workers, from
Reward. Part 4 closes the book--Helps. How the
Pastor's wife can help and how the congregation
can help. What a biblical and sane and helpful book!
I used it in my seminary class on the Office of the
Pastor and would make it mandatory reading for all
pastors if I could.
BOOKS ABOUT THE BIG PICTURE:
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, REVIVAL; Crossway--the premier
preacher of the Word of God in English in the 20th
century gives us the greatest preaching treatment
of revival. It moves us to humble prayer and
biblically reasoned hope.
Edward Donnelly, THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE OF HEAVEN
AND HELL; Banner of Truth--a series of outstanding
sermons on the end of all things and the most
exhilarating material you could ever think and the
most frightening material you could ever think.
May the Lord refresh us pastors that we may the a heart to preach the everlasting gospel of Christ in the power and joy of the Holy Spirit.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
WWW.THELOGCOLLEGE.WORDPRESS.COM for more
goodies about books and theology.