THE BOOK YOUR PASTOR WISHES YOU WOULD READ
(but is too embarrased to ask)
Written by Christopher Ash, The Good Book Company
Reviewer, Carolyn McAdam
Well, it’s not the snappiest title but this little book (just 123 pages), has given me a much healthier perspective on church life. It’s held up a mirror to a few things in my life that aren’t helping build Christ’s church in the way he’d want.
Christopher Ash starts by asking the question – why would your pastor be embarrassed to ask you to read this book? Because it tells you how to care for them. Surely that’s the wrong way round. They should be caring for me! He writes as one church member to another and encourages us to read it, so we will be better Christians in a better church as a result.
His opening two chapters take you through a Pastors Hall of Fame and why we’d want to care for our church leaders before looking in 7 short chapters at virtues that can help us. In the hall of fame, we meet pastors lamenting the “unfinishedness” of pastoral care for their flock, that their churches aren’t growing as quickly as others, or the worship just isn’t as joyful as they’ve experienced elsewhere, their sermons don’t compare with the ‘big name’ preachers people watch online. In other words, pastors experiencing the very human frailties we all do.
What might your elders Monday morning reflections be after another Sunday at Tayside Christian Fellowship? Hebrews 13v17 finishes, “Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” The rest of the book looks at the part we can play in making that work a joy not a burden.
His 7 virtues are Daily Repentance and Eager Faith, Committed Belonging, Open Honesty, Thoughtful Watchfulness, Loving Kindness, High Expectations, Zealous Submission. I found some really helpful tips in each chapter and here’s a few examples:
- Committed Belonging – do I think of church as a provider to meet my needs or somewhere I belong, do I have a just turning up attitude to Sunday gatherings, am I intentionally looking out for my pastor, church leaders and church family – these things all bring our church leaders, joy!
- Thoughtful Watchfulness – who in the church leadership is helping him think about the structure of his week, is it helping him achieve all the things he believes God has placed on his heart for this year. Are they finding time for the family, rest, the wider community they are part of? Can we share how his teaching has encouraged us to grow in our faith?
- High Expectations – “our pastors and elders for that matter, will not know that we truly value their work unless we hold them to the highest standards of godliness” a tricky one when we are all too aware of how often we stumble. Do we have completely different expectations for them than we do for ourselves?
- Zealous submission – we’ve all got our pet projects but this encourages us to think about how we let the pastor lead. It encouraged me to think about the difference about a paid employee and a shepherd accountable to Christ. He uses the story of Absalom and asks, will we be Absalom’s actively undermining, apathetic bystanders or joyfully engaging.
I loved the fact that the book was realistic about the challenges and at the end of each chapter there was a lovely prayer to help you reflect on what you’d read and learned. And finally – “if you want a better pastor or church leaders, you can get them by praying for those you already have.” Great advice and I hope you read the book.