October is Clergy Appreciation Month, and to celebrate, we’ve invited two pastors active in ministry to share what they really want this year. (Hint: it’s not cookies.)
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Unless they have their own TV show, book deal, and speaking tour, chances are that being the center of attention is not why your pastor prayed, studied, went to seminary, and prayed and studied some more before they ended up serving you and your family in your church. Pastors are typically not “me first!” people. We are happy with a “John the Baptist” role where our preaching, teaching, and pastoral care points to Christ. We must decrease, he must increase.
So when October rolls around every year and the cards, gifts, and kind words start pouring in from the people I serve, I definitely feel a profound sense of awkwardness. Leave it to the workaholic pastoral care machine to not know how to handle being thanked and cared for so publicly! I don’t do what I do so that people will thank and appreciate me; I do it so that when they die, they receive the inheritance promised for all of God’s children: everlasting life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Still, people are thankful all the same, and seek to express their appreciation creatively. Perhaps one of the most creative ways for people to show their love and appreciation to their pastors is to feed the need we constantly have for knowledge and wisdom for our vocation, and one of the best ways to do that is with books!
While it was difficult to choose among the many interesting books Eerdmans offers, here are three books I believe will be especially helpful for pastors as they seek to teach and lead their congregations, as they pray with and for their people, and as they care for everyone’s most pressing spiritual needs.
Leading God’s People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today
Christopher A. Beeley
To my great shame, it wasn’t until I was a seminarian that I first learned that anything of serious interest took place within the Christian church between the Apostle John’s death on Patmos and the start of the Lutheran Reformation in 1517. This 1400+ year period of time simply didn’t capture my attention until I was forced to consider it in Early Church History class.
Ignatius of Antioch . . . Justin Martyr . . . Polycarp of Smyrna . . . Irenaeus of Lyons . . . Nicea . . . Ambrose of Milan . . . Tertullian . . . Constantinople . . . Augustine of Hippo . . . the Cappadocians . . . Ephesus . . . Cyril of Alexandria . . . Chalcedon . . . all were unfamiliar people and places to me until I started learning about the church and what happened to Christianity after the Apostles were gone. But these people and places fascinated me and drew me in with their insightful and highly developed theological writings and the amazing triumphs of Christianity in the face of harsh opposition.
Christopher Beeley’s book appeals to me because it combines two things that are very near and dear to my heart – church history and pastoral theology – and brings them together to share the wisdom of some of the most prolific pastors in history with those of us who work hard to make traction in this world. After that first church history class and several other electives that followed, I now read the writings of the church fathers and see myself as simply one pastor in a long line of people set apart by God for service to his people. I hope Beeley’s book helps me see ever more that I am not the first to face the issues I face, and won’t be the last!
As a Lutheran pastor, this book grabbed my attention right away. Opinions on worship vary greatly, even among Lutherans, but the thrust of this book that makes me want to read it is that it appears to approach worship theologically and historically, as opposed to culturally and socially.
Repentance is a big deal for Lutherans, but even more important is the faith in Christ that confesses sin in the confidence of the absolution that always follows. A book that puts forward the idea that this interchange between God and man ought to be more central in our thinking deserves attention. I hope to read it soon.
The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction
Eugene H. Peterson
I have to reveal that this book is one that I already own and have read through at least twice between my last year of seminary and this year. I recommend Peterson’s writing because, although it’s not recent, it presents a truly pastoral approach to life as a pastor in Christ’s church. I read it as a seminarian, but I didn’t – couldn’t, really – understand everything he was talking about until I’d spent a few years in the parish fighting tooth and nail against the devil, the world, and my own sinful flesh. Now it makes much more sense to me in a lot of ways, too many for the space I have here. Suffice it to say that if you’re the pastor who sees the tremendous work that is to be done and wonders where it all fits into the schedule, this book is for you. If you’re the pastor struggling to make a faithful balance between your life at home and your life in the church, and all the crazy intersections between them, this book is for you. If you’re the pastor who wants to take care of your congregation, your family, and yourself as God’s child, this book is for you.
Click to view our featured collection of books for pastors on Eerdmans.com, to read Clergy Appreciation Month posts from Pastor Brian Hedges, Pastor Kenneth Bomberger and Pastor David Drake, or to read Rachel Bomberger’s posts on The Pastor as Minor Poet and Two Old Books for New Pastors.