I didn’t think I read any of Christopher Ash’s books until this one and I wasn’t familiar with him as an author (in the sense that I feel like I know Tim Keller, John Piper and Tim Chester quite well!). But you know some of the authors have written so much that you probably HAVE come across their books without even realising! So I did a search and here are some of the results on Google:
There are a few more familiar looking ones when I searched on Good Book Company website. Some I have read (without realising), like Listen Up!; some I was recommended to, like Zeal Without Burnout and Married For God; some I’ve seen and handled frequently in our church bookstall, like Teaching Romans and Out Of the Storm. Some of which are now on my to-read list, like Bible Delight and Remaking A Broken World (which is revised and updated with a much prettier front cover – out in August 2019). I also listened to a recent episode of Help Me Teach the Bible podcast with him talking about teaching the book of Ruth. All that said, I consider this book the introduction of my acquaintance with Mr Christopher Ash and it was really nice to meet you finally!
So, it is The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read.
You say, “What is it about?”
It’s a book about caring for your church pastors (or anyone who is on staff or has a leadership role).
But you say, “What do you mean? Why would I want to care for them?”
Ministers are ordinary people too, come from different family backgrounds and upbringings, with different kinds of discipleship and ministry experience, living among different communities and congregations, and facing different pressure and challenges. Do you, a member of the church, know their struggles, hopes and fears?
But you say, “Why does it matter? They are supposed to care for me, not the other way round.”
So let’s start with motivation. Without a correct understanding and motivation, you’ll not see the point of supporting your pastors. You expect the pastors to care for you, right? You’re correct to expect so. They are expected to do all sorts of things for their church members, probably even more than you realise. That’s why the Bible compares a church leader to an ox working hard on a farm. How do they carry all the burdens, Sunday after Sunday, year after year? A big part of motivating your pastor depends on you, an ordinary church member. Hear this:
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority… do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit TO YOU.” (Hebrews 13.17)
But you say, “What do you mean ‘to you’?!”
If you cannot bring yourself to love your pastor as a friend (!), at least love him for your own sake. Without a pastor, you’ll become a sheep without a shepherd, vulnerable to the wolves, to the snowstorm in late springs and irresponsible walkers’ pet dogs (see The Shepherd’s Life). (If you have not experienced first hand being part of a church without a good pastor, or a pastor at all for any reason, you are in a minority, so please don’t take your pastor for granted!)
“… alright then. How should I care for my pastor? What shall I do?”
Having been a pastor myself and having seen and heard stories from many young pastors, I know we can all do better as members of the church. All I’m saying here is from the Bible but your pastor will not stand in the pulpit on Sunday, giving a 15 minutes sermon on how you should look after him (“I have heard your opinions and suggestions, but submit to the decision I prayerfully made please.” “Stop presuming my children are perfect little saints or automatically believers just because I’m your pastor.”) So I’m going to list seven virtues of church members that impact our pastors. The first two are the most important, but you’ll do well if you keep all seven in mind. They are:
- Daily repentance and eager faith
- Committed belonging
- Open honesty
- Thoughtful watchfulness
- Loving kindness
- High expectations
- Zealous submission
I should stop pretending to be the author before I annoy too many people. And you might have noticed I’ve been reading Malachi recently!
Having a minor “shepherd” role myself, I have some vague ideas what kind of conversations I have, what kind of actions I see that bring me energy, encouragement and joy to carry on the work. I have known some of these virtues at the back of my mind but I haven’t sat down and thought about them very carefully. This book certainly teaches me how to support my ministers better and not take them for granted.
I don’t want to do a summary of each virtue here because each chapter is not very long and I really recommend you read it yourself rather than taking it from me secondhand. You can also verify if the pretty big claim made by the book is true: “you will be a better Christian in a better church if you do (read this book)”. I made a lot of notes while reading, including some action points. It would be interesting to know if our pastors agree with what the book says (that might be a good topic next time I find myself standing next to a pastor!).