On Being a Pastor is an essential tool to help pastors fulfill their calling. A pastor’s responsibilities are unique, demanding that he nurture his own spiritual life as well as that of the people in his care. Derek Prime and Alistair Begg provide practical advice for both the spiritual and practical aspects of pastoral ministry. Topics include prayer, devotional habits, preaching, and specific ministry duties.
As a pastor I find myself reading and rereading books on pastoral ministry. When written well these pastors serve others in the fraternity by providing thoughtful and practical insights into their own ministries. Sometimes the smallest detail can translate to a large impact in other setting. I recently read through On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg. Most likely you have heard of Begg while perhaps you are not familiar with Prime. Derek Prime served at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh for over 30 years. In fact, it was here that Alistair Begg served as an assistant pastor. This book was originally written in 1989 towards the end of Prime’s ministry and served to capture many items that he did well while also exhorting a new generation unto faithfulness. Later it was decided that the original should be revised and expanded a bit to fit a wider context. Begg joined the team and they labored together to produce this volume. Like most books on pastoral ministry there is detailed treatment of the qualifications for ministry as well as the responsibilities of ministry. This book also spends time talking about things such as leadership, delegation, leading a worship service, family life, and leisure. If that sounds ambitious it is—and it’s not a short book (weighing in at nearly 300 pages). In this edition the writers spend considerable time discussing what they do in their contexts. For example, in the section on where to study, there is some explanation of the practicality of finding a particular room, table, or desk to study on. The familiar place serves you well. Then the authors share where they study and why. Prime talks about the benefit of studying in an upper room in his home instead of at the church. He explains the benefit for him in his context. While Begg talks about why he prefers studying in s special room at his church. This window into the practice and thoughtfulness of these pastors is helpful. This style is maintained throughout the entire book. The strength of the book lies in the fact that these men are gripped by the Bible. They love the Lord and his sheep. They are transparent about their struggles and sincere about their work to improve. Several times I found myself thinking, “That was gracious of him to share that. He did not have to do that, but I’m glad he did.” They are faithful guys that serve us in their explanation and example. This strength could also be considered by some to be a weakness. Whenever you share a lot of detail about what you do and why you do it, people are bound to disagree with you or even think that you are creating a new standard. For example, in one section Begg talks about how he does not allow men on his staff team to have facial hair. No beards. His explanation, in typical Begg fashion, is witty and passionate. Someone might get aggravated and think that he is elevating his preferences. I hope this is not true, but I’m sure some would critique it as such. I find it fascinating. If you are a pastor, desire to be one, or simply want to learn more about what faithful pastoral ministry is, pick up On Being a Pastor. It’s a refreshing read.
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