David Murray writes in the Foreword: ’The minister’s soul is the soul of his ministry.’ I can’t remember where I ﬁrst heard this saying, but I’ve never been able to forget it. And, having read this book, I never want to forget it. In these pages, Jim Savastio and Brian Croft establish the foundation of all faithful and fruitful ministry—the pastor’s soul. But, although their main target is the epidemic of ministerial hyper-activity and the accompanying burnout, backsliding, and brokenness, they carefully avoid over-reacting and running to the opposite extremes of monkish withdrawal or lazy self-indulgence. Instead, you have a book that skillfully walks a balanced biblical path in both content and style.
It balances self and others. Yes, the pastor is all about serving others, about sacriﬁcing for the sake of others, about spending and being spent for others, and about pouring out themselves to ﬁll others. But, as many pastors have discovered to their cost and pain, servants are ﬁnite, sacriﬁces eventually turn to ashes, non-stop spending leads to bankruptcy, and pouring out without ever ﬁlling up ends in drought. This book reminds us that caring for self is not selﬁsh but necessary if we are to sustain a life of caring service to others. It’s not a warrant for sloth or selﬁshness, but rather a call to self-care that will lead to better other-care.
Good pastors who are diligent in caring for their flocks are often neglectful of their own welfare, the result being sometimes discouragement, failure or even burnout. Pastors need to care properly for themselves if they are to fulfil their divine calling, and this concise book by two American Baptist pastors offers much practical counsel and help. It is divided into four sections, each dealing with several aspects of care for the pastor. The first, ‘Biblical Commands Concerning a Pastor’, deals with four issues: taking heed of himself, his doctrine and his flock, ending with ‘Take Heed Because It Matters’. The second section, ‘Pastoral Call Upon a Pastor’, considers awakening, strength and love. The third section, ‘Spiritual Care of a Pastor’, examines his need to receive both the public means of grace (in congregational worship) and also the private means of grace, pointing out the pastor’s need to stay hungry, needy and warm. The final section addresses what is often the most neglected area of the pastor’s life, namely ‘Physical Care for a Pastor’. Chapters deal with eat, sleep, exercise, friendship, silence and rest. Two appendices deal with the possible use of a sabbatical from pastoral ministry in order to re–charge. There is much realistic and biblical wisdom in these pages, given by men of extensive pastoral experience who are able to recognise that no two individuals are exactly the same and so one prescription does not suit everyone. The American context does not take away significantly from their counsel, and at a few points translation into other cultures can easily be made. Although a Presbyterian setting should provide some additional support mechanisms absent from the Independent background of the authors, most of what they say is very readily applicable to any pastor. This book offers a very helpful ‘check–up’ for pastors as they evaluate their life and ministry, and would also be useful reading for elders and congregations concerned for the welfare of their pastors.
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