This is a note I wrote to a young adult friend who has expressed interest in becoming a pastor. His/her name is not Tim…
I was so heartened to hear of your testimony for the things God is doing in your life- and the miraculous ways in which God has assisted you and your family. I am also grateful that you shared with me your desire to become a minister of the Gospel. You asked me to recommend a reading list, and I will share some basic readings at the end of this note.
Before I do, I want to repeat a few things I said during our conversation the other day: yes, it is a good thing to aspire to the pastorate. And I would add that you may be a fulltime pastor, or one who makes a living doing something else. This is imperfectly called bi-vocational ministry. In any case, I wanted to stress three things we need pastors urgently to model and preach:
- Preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ: how he was prophesied in the Old Testament; how He is present when we pray the Psalms; how he lived, loved and still loves people; and also preach his death, resurrection and his second coming. And how the stories in the Bible shape our life and our death.
- Care for poor. It is unbecoming for a minister to neglect the least of these. You and I, and our congregations, should be at the forefront of helping the hungry and the needy, and connecting with people in our community who do this transparently and well.
- Visit the sick and the afflicted – and pray with them. This is an essential part of being a Christian – and as a minister you will be at the forefront of modeling this for other those you are called to shepherd. It is the urgency of the age: we don’t need more executives with a pulpit! We need pastors who go to hospitals and who are willing to engage in the old and timeless pastoral visit.
As for the books, here we go:
- On the Incarnation of Christ by St. Athanasios – It will teach you about the Trinity, about ancient sound doctrine, and about solid preaching and missions.
- The Confessions by St. Augustine – it will teach you how to pray.
- The Pastoral Rule by St. Gregory the Great – It will teach about the balance of being a teacher, pastor and administrator. And it will demonstrate to you how the ancient teachers of the Church understood about personalities and the work of pastoral counseling.
This is not a comprehensive list. But it is a good start.
Stay in touch.