Pastoring is hard. Brother pastor, let me be honest, leading God’s people is not always glamorous work, just ask Moses. The celebrity pastor who has prestige, a handsome salary, conference speaking gigs, and a lucrative book deal is a relatively new phenomenon. For much of church history, pastoring was a semi-anonymous career. Even today, the majority of pastors lead congregations of less than a couple hundred members, and are virtually unknown outside of their immediate ministry context. Yet pastoring can be a wonderful job, in fact it is a calling.
It is true that all believers are called to share the gospel and minister to others. The role of pastor, however, is a special calling for qualified men to lead the people of God in a local congregation. This then raises the question: what is the best way to be a pastor? We find the biblical qualifications for pastor/elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. These passages provide for us the who of pastoral ministry, but it is lean on the how of pastoral ministry. There has been much ink spilled over how to best prepare a sermon, grow a church, lead with vision, etc. Yet those are not the only aspects to being a pastor. There are not many books on the character of being a pastor, which is the most important aspect of pastoral ministry. This is what pastor Andrew Hébert seeks to rectify in his new book Shepherding Like Jesus: Restoring the Wild Idea That Character Matters in Ministry (B&H, 2022).
Skimming the headlines in recent weeks, it doesn’t take long to realize that character matters in pastoral ministry. In May 2022, it came to light that over 700 pastors and church leaders in Southern Baptist churches were alleged sexual abusers, some of them in multiple churches. The worst part is that a select few of the national SBC leadership covered it up because of fear for the potential repercussions it would bring to the denomination. Thankfully, the SBC has taken steps toward assuring this would not occur in the future.* Beyond this specific scandal, there have been countless pastors and churches leaders who have had to step down because of sexual misconduct and/or abuse of power. These sins should grieve us, because they are symptoms of a deeper problem: lack of character.
In the book, Hébert uses the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a model for pastoral character. He makes the point that, although Jesus is speaking to a crowd in this sermon, his primary audience were the disciples who would continue to lead the church upon his ascension into heaven. For this reason, Hebert uses the Beatitudes to describe the model for godly character in the pastorate. Each chapter discusses each of the beatitudes in turn. At the end of each chapter, Hébert leaves room for a pastoral reflection of the subject matter discussed in that chapter. This section is written by various pastors and church leaders serving within Southern Baptist churches. These contributors include: Mac Brunson, Juan Sanchez, Clint Pressley, and Robert Smith, among others.
Character is truly the most important qualification for the office of pastor. In both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the Apostle Paul lists the need to be above reproach as the first qualification for pastors. Unfortunately, all too often in our modern context, this quality has not be at the forefront for many who hold the office of pastor. Shepherding Like Jesus is a needed word of warning and encouragement. It is a word of warning to those who seek to be pastors, to insure they are living above reproach. It is also a word of encouragement to those pastors who are serving faithfully, for the role of pastor is a hard job. By far the best feature of the book is the pastoral reflections. This is to take nothing away from Andrew Hébert and the meat of book. Yet, the encouragement brought to the reader (most likely a fellow pastor) from men who are serving on the front lines of ministry. Men who are not celebrity pastors, but who are faithfully serving their local church. They encourage the reader/fellow pastor to continue, even when the way is difficult.
Shepherding Like Jesus is an excellent resource. The primary audience is to pastors and church leaders. This resource is truly a gift to pastors and church leaders. The past two years have been extremely difficult for a lot of folks, but especially pastors. They have been on the front line of ministry amid the pandemic and cultural upheaval. Shepherding Like Jesus is a call to serve the people of God as an under shepherd of the Chief Shepherd. Yet there is much that can be gleaned from the book for others who are not serving as a pastor. Each of the beatitudes applies to all believers alike, because we are all called to follow Jesus.
*Andrew Hébert served on the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force that helped uncover the truth regarding the accusations of cover up of sexual abuse among some former members of the SBC’s Executive Committee. He was appointed to the SATF by then president of the SBC, Pastor Ed Litton in the summer of 2021. The SATF’s recommendations regarding the safeguards against future sexual abuse were adopted overwhelmingly by the messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA on June 14, 2022.
Editor’s note: This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
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