Book Review: 40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry, by Phil Newton
Phil A. Newton. 40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry. Kregel Publications, 2020. 410 pages.
Confession: I love the 40 Questions series by Kregel Publications. And I love pastoral ministry. So, this will clearly be a biased review.
Partiality aside, I snap up these books upon publication and they have served me well in pastoral ministry in sermon preparation, discipleship and counseling conversations, and as recommended reading for church members. I believe they will do the same for you in your ministry.
In this review, and in tried-and-true baptistic alliterative fashion, I’d like to offer an analysis of the book’s contents, it’s unique contribution to books on pastoral ministry, and my own commendation for you to take up and read.
This new resource, 40 Questions About Pastoral Ministry, by Phil Newton is a no-brainer recommendation for pastors and the churches they serve. The book is structured in a 40 questions format in five key sections. Those sections are:
- foundational considerations that look at what it means to be a pastor, with attention to the character and necessary qualifications.
- pastoral development and health that steers pastors to ways that give attention to their personal walk, marriage, family, relationships, and practices for endurance.
- pastoral practices that identify how a pastor should pastor the flock, handle opposition, and train leaders.
- pastoral preaching explored as the heart of pastoral ministry that center corporate gatherings in the gospel
- the church and pastoral ministry that looks at the doctrine of the church broadly before moving to developing healthy church practices.
Each of these sections has between 5–12 specific questions that are addressed in under 10 pages. It would make excellent devotional reading for the pastor’s heart. Additionally, it could be used by an elder team to read one question together at each elder’s meeting. It could also be assigned to potential pastoral candidates. A section could be assigned where they are asked to answer the question in their own words and then read what Pastor Phil has to say. It might serve as a formative exercise for those who aspire to ministry. I have considered using some of the questions and answers as fuel for discussion and prayer in our local pastors fellowship.
Many books reflect theologically on the pastorate. A growing number of books tackle specific pastoral tasks. Newton’s book, however, does both.
In addition to covering the basics of pastoral calling (“What is a pastor?,” “What is meant by pastoral ministry?, “What essential qualities must be present in a Christian pastor?), the book also covers the church (“What is the church?,” “How is good pastoral ministry tied directly to ecclesiology?”). Some books on pastoral ministry don’t engage enough with ecclesiology. This book roots faithful pastoral ministry in a biblical understanding of the church.
But the contributions are not just limited to pastoral theology and ecclesiology. Numerous practical topics are explored. Everything from the pace of church revitalization, to making changes in polity, to leading the church to reform membership and discipline procedures, pastors engaged in the vital but hard work of revitalization will find Phil Newton a battle-tested and trustworthy guide in these matters.
Pastors who preach and teach regularly will find ample guidance and encouragement:
- What Distinguishes Pastoral Preaching from Simply Preaching?
- What Should Pastors Teach Their Congregations?
- How Does the Pastor Prepare a Pastoral Exposition?
- Why Should Pastors Preach Through Books of the Bible?
- How Should a Pastor Decide Which Book to Preach to His Congregation?
Practical matters such as preaching and leading weddings and funerals are also given attention. Finally, a few questions address long pastorates and how to transition out of ministry well, topics too often neglected in many books for pastors.
All the practical guidance notwithstanding, this book is smothered in pastoral heart. The book reads like wise counsel from a seasoned pastor to younger (and older) pastors. Among the questions that reflect this “pastoral heart” are:
- Can Pastors Remain Spiritually Healthy Throughout Their Ministries?
- How Can a Pastor Care for His Spiritual Life?
- How Can Pastors Strengthen Their Marriages?
- How Can Pastors Shepherd Their Families?
- Do Pastors Need Pastoring?
- How Can Pastors Deal with Discouragements in Pastoral Ministry?
- How Do Pastors Endure in Their Ministries?
- How Do Intra-Pastoral Connections Strengthen Patient Endurance in Pastoral Ministry?
- How Should Jesus’s Practice of Not ‘Crushing a Bruised Reed’ Shape Pastoral Ministry?
- How Should Pastors Help Their Congregations Face Suffering?
- How Does Jesus’s Life and Ministry Mark the Pastor?
While many books on pastoring cover the familiar terrain of feeding, leading and heeding the flock, the questions (and answers) in this particular volume gripped my heart, brought tears to my eyes, encouraged my faith, and put resolve in my soul. I believe it will do the same for you.