- Paperback: 174 pages
- Publisher: Baker Academic (February 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801031095
- ISBN-13: 978-0801031090
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pastoral Ministry according to Paul: A Biblical Vision
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About the Author
James W. Thompson (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is the Robert and Kay Onstead Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University. He is the author of several books, including Preaching like Paul and The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy, and coauthor of God's Holy Fire.
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Top customer reviews
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This truncating of the biblical sources--and of the subject of pastoral ministry--will be understandably off-putting to many evangelical readers. But it would be a mistake to skip this book altogether. The author may not include all of the aspects of `pastoral ministry according to Paul' we would prefer him to, but what he does cover, he does very thoroughly. And the resulting insights he draws from these letters are rich with meaning for everyone involved in pastoral ministry. Thompson doesn't devote much time to exploring the how of pastoral ministry, but he quite capably brings out the why. As the old saying goes: "If you understand the why, the how comes more naturally."
Early in the book, we see the problem needing to be addressed. Scholars and church leaders frequently have differing, conflicting visions of what they mean by "pastoral ministry," and this is even true of leaders within the same church tradition. As the author notes, too many churches today are seeking pastors who are a combination of Jay Leno, Lee Iacocca and Dr. Phil. Contributing to the problem is the unhelpful separation of theory and praxis in theological education. Thompson notes Edward Farley's observation that all theological study was at one time designated "practical theology." Now too many of the practical skills that are taught have no solid basis in theology, and too little theological study is applied to real life.
Thompson moves from this problem to a careful, detailed examination of six of Paul's letters. He shows that, for Paul, "all theology is pastoral." And throughout these epistles, we see one consistently repeated pastoral ambition: the formation and transformation of the church communities. Everything Paul does is centered on this purpose. His ultimate goal is to present to Christ the fully formed churches that were entrusted to him. This objective defines and determines his ministry. It also makes his ministry focus both corporate and eschatological:
"The task of the Christian leader is to work with God in the construction of a building that will be complete only at the end."
This is a good reminder to us that pastoral ministry--the forming and transforming of church communities--is never "finished" in this lifetime. The author also repeatedly emphasizes Paul's corporate understanding of the Christian faith, as opposed to an overly individualistic one.
The biblical theology (in the Pauline letters studied) is excellent, and the author has provided us with edifying and thought-provoking insights. Paul's priority of community formation is a crucial one, and a priority we do well to emulate. Had Thompson chosen to include all of Paul's epistles, he could have used the apostle's own words in his letter to the Colossians:
"So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That's why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ's mighty power that works within me."