Pastoral Ministry According to Paul

Pastoral Ministry According to Paul, James W. Thompson
(Baker, 2006), pb., 174 pp.

I have previously commented on my appreciation of the basic direction of this book and its critique of common contemporary conceptions of pastoral ministry. I have more recently finished reading the book and submitted my review to the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. I can’t post my complete review here before it goes to print, but I did want to briefly commend the book here. I have some key basic disagreements with Thompson, but he makes excellent points on goal of pastoral ministry as found in Paul’s letters (at least in the letters he is willing to ascribe to Paul).

Thompson does a good job of showing that Paul is not simply concerned to get professions of faith from large numbers of individuals. Paul is concerned to establish churches composed of healthy, godly members living in proper relation to one another. Paul’s vision is much more holistic than what we often witness today. Paul is clear that the success of his ministry will only fully be known on the final day. Thus he labors in view of eternity and not simply with a bag of quick fixes which may attract attention from denominational papers but will fade long before judgment.

Here are a few quotes:

His initial evangelistic work is therefore only the beginning of a process that will not be complete until the end of time. His work will be successful only if his congregations live out the consequences of the gospel through transformed lives and are fully transformed at the coming of Christ. Thus all theology is pastoral for Paul.  24

Paul’s work is not only to evangelize but to participate in the transformation of the community.  91

In the fourth place, Paul’s pastoral theology is ecclesiocentric and eschatological. Ministry is not done in isolation, and the goal of the pastor is not only the well-being of the individual. The goal of ministry is to ensure that individuals discover the resources for transformation within the community and that corporate well-being is the goal of the pastor…. The church has seen a glimpse of the end of the narrative, when it will be transformed into the image of the Son. To be engaged in ministry is to work with God toward this goal.  118

The ultimate test for the effectiveness of our ministry cannot be measured by the standards of our culture or our peers but by whether our work survives the test.  156

To build a church on the basis of the satisfaction of consumer tastes is to retreat to the self-centeredness of the old aeon.  157

The worship service is not intended to appeal to individual consumer tastes but to build a lasting community.  161

I encourage pastors to get this book and read it. There are parts to disagree with, but there is much to heed as well.

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