5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Jared Wilson
Buy The Pastor’s Justification
Reading Level: Easy
Jeff Block is a recent Bethel Seminary San Diego graduate. He’s joyously married to Leanna for nine years. They are raising two awesome, adventurous boys, Asher and Corban. He’s an avid reader, lover of coffee, and passionate about the Gospel. He serves with First Baptist Church Lemon Grove as Children’s & Youth Director. You can follow him on Twitter or at his blog Bridging the Gospel.
As soon as one picks up The Pastor’s Justification, you probably will think “Oh, yeah. I probably need to read this.” That was my experience and the experience of my friend who co-pastors a small church plant in San Diego, California. This book is one that you’ll want to buy copies of and hand deliver to every pastor you know.
Jared Wilson, pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Vermont, pens the book for pastors, with a pastor’s conviction, reminding us who we are, who we should be and who we are ultimately for and under. Subtitled Applying The Work of Christ In Your Life and Ministry, this book is timely and aptly written for a such time as these when pastors are working harder than ever to keep churches afloat during tumultuous times. Yet, I am convinced it is not just for the pastor, but the quiet volunteer up early on a Sunday morning, or a mid-week bible study leader getting home late from work and prepping for his community group in need of the same thing his pastor needs: the grace of Jesus Christ. It’s actually a book for all of us.
Early on he writes, “The justification for the sin-prone pastor—by which I mean simply the pastor—is the same as it is for every sinner. There is no Justification 2.0 for ministers of the gospel” (19). This message is for all ministers of the gospel, but primarily the pastor who is “ministerially multipolar” because that is what they are, ministering everywhere at all times. He adds, “Many Christians are focused on their own journey; the biblical pastor is too, but he’s also focused on yours.” There’s no high gloss here, only the matte reality of the job as a pastor.
Self-examination and trust in the gospel are at the heart of this book. All throughout, Jared is digging deep and asking the hard questions. I think of J.C. Ryle’s Practical Religion, where early on Ryle asks, “Do we ever think about our souls at all?” This book asks questions like that.
Divided into two parts, Jared focuses first on “The Heart of the Pastor.” He delves into and explores 1 Peter 5:1–11, “an especially helpful gospel-centered admonition to church elders.” Second part is “The Pastor’s Glory,” where he looks at the “five solas of the Reformation” (Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria) and fleshes them out to see how they can make more of Christ and his gospel and less of ourselves.
As with many strengths of this book, one in particular is the tone Jared writes with. He has a big vision for what the justified pastor looks like, grounded in the gospel of Jesus and set free to pastor freely. He reminds us we are free from justifying ourselves, from our church’s numbers and figures, our retweets and links or podcast downloads. The pastor’s justification is “perfect and big, bigger than you and better than you but bled and bought for you and birthed in you, yours irrevocably, sealed and guaranteed through both your successes and your failures, the pats on your back, or the knives in your back’ (39).
We are drawn back to the gospel over and over again, in particular, to be holy pastors. We are encouraged not to neglect personal holiness, because our churches need our pursuit of that. “Pastors,” he writes, “personal holiness begins in the quietude of your study or your office or bedside. Holiness begins in your meditation on the written word and supplication to the risen Word. But it is made an example of outside the office door” (44).
Perhaps the strongest and most surgical chapter is “The Humble Pastor.” Like when he punches us in the gut: “The proud pastor is an enemy of God.” As our breath regains from that sobering truth, Jared suggests how to kill our ego in a classic Texan way: “Pastor, take your ego out to the woodshed, then, everyday. And don’t just whup it. Put a gun to its head and blow its brains out. Let us resolve ‘to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2)” (88). With that, he further unpacks Peter’s exhortation to clothe ourselves with humility, remembering the qualifications of the pastorate are real and necessary. He blows the wind out of our egos to remind us the breath that keeps us alive is in the winds of the gospel. “The work is not ours,” he writes. “It’s Jesus’s. Jesus did the work we are unwilling--and unable!--to do” (79).
Other strong chapters are “The Watchful Pastor” and “The Confident Pastor.” In these chapters, Jared understands and empathizes with those in pastoral ministry. He writes as one alongside you, running on treadmill, like ministry can seem.
Ultimately, The Pastor’s Justification is about being honest. “You, brother pastor, are way in over your head. You need Jesus. But as a believer, you have him” (102). It’s about coming empty-handed to the cross and asking to pastor by faith, not by sight.
Jared is well read and has a appreciation for those gone before us. He is influenced by the giants like Luther, Spurgeon, Lloyd Jones, and Stott, yet throws the curveball, like 80’s CCM artist Steve Taylor (which I loved!). He also excels telling his autobiographical stories, because they are all of our stories. They are not pretty, full of mistakes and ego-deflating stories. But we relate to them all.
He closes his book in pastoral fashion, in confession: “Feeble, failing, flailing, sin-prone pastor, you are a mighty man of God. You are secure as Christ is. Let's pastor in this reality, brothers, until our hearts burst with joy” (180).
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received The Pastor’s Justification free from Crossway. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”