Book Review: The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read
Christopher Ash, The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask). The Good Book Company, 2019. 126 pages.
This review has two authors.
One is a pastor (Mark) and one is a deacon (Tim). They are both members of the same church (Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY). One of the authors (Mark), by God’s grace, knows what it is like to serve his congregation with joy, and the other author (Tim) knows, by God’s grace, what it is like to be served by a joyful pastor. Mark attributes much of his joyful pastoring to the faithful care of Tim and members like him.
We want this for your church. This book will help get you there.
A MEMBER’S PERSPECTIVE (Tim)
What a practical, helpful book! Building on an often neglected part of a fairly well-known text, Christopher Ash guides us through an insightful application of the latter part of Hebrews 13:17. The more familiar part of that text says,“ Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” That calls for submission to our pastors especially in light of the account they must give for their oversight. Then comes the exhortation that sometimes gets lost: “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
How many of us average church members have thought through what it means to submit to our pastors’ leadership in such a way that they find real joy in shepherding the flock where God has placed them (and us)? This exhortation is a much needed wake-up call to most church members. Not all members of local churches are determined to make their pastors’ lives miserable. But neither are all church members specifically and practically focused on caring for their pastors in ways that make their pastoral work a delight. The author tackles this all-too-often glaring omission with wisdom, courage, helpful illustrations, practical suggestions, and a natural brevity that makes his book a relatively easy read.
Volumes have been written on how pastors should care for the people they shepherd. But when was the last time you read something about how we, as church members, should care for our pastors? For many of us, the answer to that question is “never.” But as Ash shows, “If you and I do not care for our pastors, then they will not be able to care for us” (11).
After a couple of helpful opening chapters reminding us that pastors are people too, we find the next several chapters setting before us seven virtues that will help us to obey the latter part of Heb. 13:17.
- Daily repentance and eager faith
- Committed belonging
- Open honesty
- Thoughtful watchfulness
- Loving kindness
- High expectations
- Zealous submission
In the Apostle Paul’s well-known description of the church as one body with many members, he makes the argument that God has so composed the body that, while there is diversity, there should be no division, but that “the members may have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25). Are pastors not also members of the body? Should we then not have the same care for them? Of course our care for them will not look exactly like their care for us, but it should be care nonetheless.
A PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE (Mark)
I can sympathize with the author’s subtitle. Most pastors (present company included) would be far too embarrassed to ask a church member to read a book about how they can better serve him. But, what makes this book more easily commendable is that it is not so much what the church member gives to the pastor, but what he or she can be for the pastor that sets the agenda. Robert Murray McCheyne said, “The greatest need of my people is my own holiness.” The same applies to church members. Church member, the greatest need your pastor has from you is your own holiness. Your faithful walking with Christ and love for the church will be the greatest gift you can give any true pastor (3 John 4).
As a pastor, I agree wholeheartedly that “unless there is at least some whisper of joy in their hearts as they do their work, some spring of gladness in their step, they will never persevere to the end.” All pastors know dark days, deep valleys, and desperate situations. But, those dark days are given some light, those deep valleys are given some water, and those desperate situations are felt more hopeful through the presence of church-given joy in the pastor’s heart.
Tim and other members of my church have certainly given that same joy to me. From the very beginning of my pastorate nearly ten years ago, Tim has faithfully walked with Christ and, as a result, has been a faithful friend and brother to me. In more recent years, through various trials, Tim has demonstrated thoughtful watchfulness over me. It is not uncommon for him to drop by my office and check on me. He has offered prayer more times than I can count. He makes sure I am getting rest and sufficient time away. His has contributed to my pastoral joy in countless ways and I consider him an unmerited gift from God.
I want the same for all of Christ’s churches, which is why I am eager to see church members read and apply this book. Church member, remember that it is not your pastor asking you to do this—this command comes from the Lord himself (Heb. 13:17). Just as pastors will be held accountable for how faithfully they obeyed the command to oversee the flock, so church members will be held accountable for how faithfully they obeyed the command to make shepherding their church a groan-free experience for their pastor.
A FINAL WORD FROM A MEMBER (AND AN EMBARRASSED PASTOR)
This book, which most pastors would be embarrassed to ask you to read, should be read by every church member. It is helpful, convicting, and encouraging all at the same time. So, for the pastors who won’t ask, I (Tim) will. Please read The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read. If you do, and if you follow through, you will contribute immensely to your pastor’s joy in doing the work of the ministry.
And I (Mark) can sheepishly assure you on the basis of God’s word and personal experience that this will be of much advantage to you!