Oct 8, 2013

The Pastor's Justification - A Book Review

Jared Wilson is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. He has a solid grasp on the gospel and a gifted writing style that keeps the gospel from becoming rote and academic.  I was very excited to receive a copy of his book, The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in your Life and Ministry.  This may be one of the most important books to my personal ministry that I have read in a long time. Jared does a masterful job of bringing together the calling to ministry and the daily implications of the gospel that we pastors, we are stewards of that same gospel, so often forget.

Ministry is an exhaustive exercise of trying to prove your worth and calling by trying to convince others, who are also fallen, sinful creations, to live the gospel. Every time we as pastors get together, we ask about the same metrics: "How many do you run in Sunday School?", "How many did you have in worship Sunday?", and "How many have you baptized this year?"  When you add to this equation that 85% of churches in America, including mine, are plateaued or declining, then you come out with a mix of pastors that are stressed about numerical success, depressed about their current ministry context, looking for greener fields somewhere else, or questioning their own calling.  The statistics about the spiritual health of pastors and ministers are frightening:

  • Each month, about 1,500 ministers leave ministry altogether either by moral failure, ministry burnout, or forced termination.
  • About 70% of pastors are fighting depression of some sort
  • 50% of ministers say they would probably leave the ministry if they could find another job that would pay them what they are currently making.

This is why Jared Wilson's book is of fundamental importance and a clarion call in a desperate time.  Jared is a pastor who lives in the trenches of ministry every day.  He also has a profound ability to bring practical application of the gospel to everyday life. He shows us exactly what Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 that the gospel is not just something that has saved us, but that it is "the gospel in which you stand and by which you are being saved" presently.  Perhaps the desperate and tragic state of our churches is due to the fact that our pastors are not preaching the gospel to themselves everyday.  Perhaps our obsession with numerical success has blinded us to the fact that we are perfectly accepted by our Heavenly Father because of Christ's righteousness no matter how many people didn't show up last Sunday.  Perhaps the biggest reason there is a fundamental ignorance of the gospel in thew pews of our churches is because there is a fundamental ignorance of neglect of the gospel in the pulpit.  The issue of gospel application to the minister's calling and work is of fundamental importance and Jared does a masterful job of showing this in The Pastor's Justification. He shows how the gospel makes pastors holy, confident, watchful, free, humble, and justified. He also shows how the issues of faith, grace, Christ, God's word, and God's glory apply to the daily and weekly grind of ministry.

As I began reading this book, my first thought was, "I wish this book had been given me when I was in seminary."  I think that every person who seeks to minister in Christ's church should pick up a copy, absorb it, digest it, and master it.  This isn't a book you will fully comprehend in one reading.  The truths of this book will take years to digest and apply.  If you are a pastor, youth minister, worship leader, children's minister, lay minister, or just a concerned church member, you should definitely read this book.