Pastoral ministry is a fascinating and fascinatingly unique vocation, one of peaks and valleys, one of honor and dishonor, respect and disrespect. It can swing from brutal to beautiful and back again in a single day, or a single sermon.
Jared Wilson writes,
The pastoral fraternity is an interesting one. We are a motley bunch of fools. Different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations and traditions and, of course, theologies. But there is something both lay elders and career elders have in common, something I’ve seen in the thirty-year senior pastor of a southern megachurch as well as the bivocational shepherd of a little, rural New England parish, the laid-back fauxhawked church planter and the fancy mousse-haired charismatic, and in nearly every pastor in between: a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel.
The Pastor’s Justification is Wilson’s response to this great vulnerability and this great need. He writes as a pastor to and for other pastors. He writes to and for those who desperately need to understand, ponder and apply the gospel, which is to say, he writes for himself first, and the rest of us only subsequently.
The book’s format is simple. In Part 1: The Pastor’s Heart, he explores 1 Peter 5:1-11, an admonition to church leaders. Then, in Part 2: The Pastor’s Glory, he turns to the five solas of the Reformation to see how pastors can take more of themselves out of their ministry in order to better and more fully apply Christ and his gospel. It turns out to be a powerful one-two punch.
As Wilson turns to 1 Peter he says, “My prayer is that you will find this book helpful not primarily to your pastoral ‘toolkit’ but to your heart.” And, indeed, this is exactly the book he has written. This is a book for a pastor to read, to savor, and to apply. I think there are many of us who are wary that “gospel-centered” may be the buzzword of the day, but one that will soon fade and be forgotten in favor of the next big thing. But Wilson carefully avoids cliches and easy solutions. He shows that whatever we call this thing, we absolutely must be grounded firmly and permanently in the good news of what Christ has accomplished.
Wilson carefully examines and exposits this passage from Peter to speak of the pastor’s freedom in Christ, to call the pastor to personal holiness, to call him to humility, to explain the confidence he needs to have in his calling, to exhort him to be watchful, and to remind him again and again that he is already justified, already accepted by a kind and loving Father.
Written from the trenches of pastoral ministry, The Pastor’s Justification is not the least bit self-pitying, self-loathing, or self-focused. It is real, but not exhibitionist; it is practical, but not legalistic; it is simple in some places and deep in others; it is gentle when it ought to be gentle, and blunt when bluntness is required. It is drenched in the gospel and drenched in the Bible. It is a book any pastor can read, enjoy and apply.