James Stalker’s Beautiful Portrait of Pastoral Ministry

This past week Justin Wainscott sent to me and several others the following excerpt from James Stalker, which is a beautiful, powerful portrait of pastoral ministry. If you have read Eugene Peterson on pastoral ministry you will have seen him echoing many of these images from Stalker. There is so much good here:


  • the pastor is first a member of the congregation;
  • not above them, but as one of them he is set aside for this specific purpose;
  • indebtedness to the people to bring to them the fruit of the work he has been freed up to do

Here is Stalker:

I like to think of the minister as only one of the congregation set apart by the rest for a particular purpose. A congregation is a number of people associated for their moral and spiritual improvement. And they say to one of their number, Look, brother, we are busy with our daily toils and confused with domestic and worldly cares; we live in confusion and darkness; but we eagerly long for peace and light to cheer and illuminate our life; and we have heard there is a land where these are to be found—a land of repose and joy, full of thoughts that breathe and words that burn: but we cannot go thither ourselves; we are too embroiled in daily cares: come, we will elect you, and set you free from our toils, and you shall go thither for us, and week by week trade with that land and bring us its treasures and its spoils. Oh, woe to him who accepts this election, and yet, failing through idleness to carry on the noble merchandise, appears week by week empty-handed or with merely counterfeit treasure in his hands! Woe to him too, if, going to that land, he forgets those who sent him and spends his time there in selfish enjoyment of the delights of knowledge! Woe to him if he does not week by week return laden, and ever more richly laden, and saying, Yes, brothers, I have been to that land; and it is a land of light and peace and nobleness: but I have never forgotten you and your needs and the dear bonds of brotherhood; and look, I have brought back this, and this, and this: take it to gladden and purify your life!

James Stalker, The Preacher and His Models: The Yale Lectures in Preaching (A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1891), 282-83. [free online]

Yes, brothers, yes! This is it! Let’s us go and do likewise.

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