I’ve seen churches where the pastor has been treated terribly—a slave forced to cede to the congregation’s every whim. I’ve seen churches where the pastor has been treated heroically—a superstar who exists above all critique and accountability. Surely the biblical position avoids both extremes and treats the pastor far better than either a slave or a celebrity. It treats him as a shepherd or, better still, an under-shepherd who serves on behalf of the great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ.
For a pastor to thrive in his God-ordained role, both he and his church must know the nature of their relationship and be willing to do their part to make this a healthy, happy dynamic. And this is exactly the subject of Christopher Ash’s new book The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But Is Too Embarrassed to Ask). “I want you to read this book,” he says in the introduction. “I want that very much. I want it because it’s important. And precisely because your pastor is embarrassed to ask you. But you should. You will be a better Christian in a better church if you do. What I write about is very important and widely neglected. You may not have thought about it; but I hope you will now.”
What Ash wants to set before the reader is a two-way congregational dynamic in which the pastor cares for the people and the people care for the pastor. In that way both carry out their God-given responsibility and both grow in Christ-likeness. It’s the ultimate win-win. Not only that, but it exposits the command of Hebrews 13:17 and teaches how to heed it: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Do you see that? Taking good care of your pastor is good for them and for you (just as the pastor taking care of you is good for him and for the whole church).
To show how to practically apply this, Ash sets out a series of seven virtues Christians can learn that will go a long way to making their pastor’s work a joy—something that will allow their pastors to better serve them in return.
- Daily repentance and eager faith
- Committed belonging
- Open honesty
- Thoughtful watchfulness
- Loving kindness
- High expectations
- Zealous submission
What I appreciate about Ash’s work is its originality. While there are thousands of books meant to teach pastors how to serve their churches, this is the only book I know of created specifically to teach churches how to serve their pastors. In a sense it’s the most obvious topic in the world, yet one that remains largely unexplored, at least as far as I know. That said, I’m glad it wasn’t my task to market it because, though I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure how I’d go about the task. While it’s immediately obvious to me that this is a book that could benefit every church and every Christian, it’s not immediately obvious to me how to convince people to buy it. It seems like the kind of book you’d tend to buy in bulk and distribute widely, yet it’s typically the pastors who do that kind of purchasing and distribution. So maybe the best thing you can do is buy a few copies and spread them around your church, giving them to a few people you know personally and a few people who are capable of influencing others.
The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But Is Too Embarrassed to Ask) is not a book about protecting abusive pastors or covering for lazy ones. It’s not about celebrating pastors who refuse to carry out their God-given calling. Rather, it’s about creating an atmosphere in which pastors can carry out their unique tasks with joy and freedom, caring for the flock even as the flock cares for them. For that reason, I’m glad to commend it to you.