Book Review: The Man of God: Volume 1, by Albert Martin
Albert N. Martin, The Man of God: His Calling and Godly Life: Volume 1 of Pastoral Theology. Trinity Pulpit Press, 2018. 436 pages.
As a young pastor, I need the wisdom of older pastors. I had the privilege of serving with an older, more seasoned pastor for many years. The wisdom and experience he shared with me was something no seminary or classroom could ever teach me. Character, patience, and love for the same sheep over several decades was modeled before my eyes. We need more godly examples of pastors who preach, pray, and stay for decades in their local churches.
In The Man of God, Albert Martin, one of the founding pastors of Trinity Baptist Church of Montville, New Jersey, pulls together wisdom from Scripture, church history, and nearly five decades of pastoral experience to serve the next generation of pastors. As a result, this book (originally a series of lectures given at Trinity Ministerial Academy), is an enormously helpful meditation on the joys and perils of ministry for pastors in every stage of life. Martin’s lectures felt as if he was sitting across the dining table passing on his pastoral wisdom from decades of experience. It was an encouraging reminder of the glorious call, requirements, and life of the man of God.
THE CALL OF THE MAN OF GOD TO THE PASTORAL OFFICE
The first section of the book deals with the calling of the man of God—the pastor. According to Martin, this call is biblical, ordinary, orderly, and ecclesiastical. Summarizing principles from the Pastoral Epistles and the writings of various pastors throughout church history, Martin examines the following elements of how God calls men into ministry: aspiration, qualification, confirmation, and recognition by a local church.
First, the biblical call deals with the aspiration of the man of God. Martin believes an essential element of a biblical call to pastoral ministry is “an enlightened and sanctified desire for the pastoral office” (56). Does the man of God have a legitimate and noble desire that is free of pride and vain ambition? Is the aspiring minister willing to care, not only for preaching, but for God’s people as a shepherd? Does he understand the gravity and stewardship of the ministry? Martin understands that a healthy, biblically functioning church is the normal context where many of these questions are answered. The church is where wise counsel should be received from pastors and God’s people (64).
Second, Martin devotes his attention to the qualifications of a pastor. Examining 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:5–9, Martin argues that pastors must demonstrate proven character, experience, and particular gifting necessary for the office. Martin believes these passages are “non-negotiable” and the “uncompromising standard must be maintained” (78). Pastors must also demonstrate a genuine love for Christ, faith in great unseen realities, understand the dynamics of sin and grace, and a chastened disposition of humility and self-distrust. Moreover, he must have particular gifts which are given by God himself to serve the flock with God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:2).
Third, the call to ministry is to be confirmed by the people of God. He writes, “While sober-self-assessment of our desires, graces, and gifts is a personal responsibility which no man can righteously evade, an external confirmation of that assessment by a cross-section of spiritually minded people is essential to a valid call to the pastoral office” (195). A man of God is not called in isolation, but “the validation of the people of God is essential to a biblical and orderly call to the ministry” (205).
Finally, the man of God whose internal desire is confirmed by Scripture and externally by God’s people will be recognized by a specific congregation. “The crowning validation of a man’s call to the pastoral office is effected when a specific congregation, objectively assessing a man’s graces and gifts, and acting by the authority of Christ, does by its corporate suffrage, acknowledge that man as a gift of Christ to them, leading to his formal ordination and installation to that office in that specific congregation” (208). Pastors are not pastors without congregations, for “shepherds are shepherds to specific flocks of God” (219).
THE LIFE OF THE MAN OF GOD IN THE PASTORAL OFFICE
The second section deals with the life of the man of God. No pastor can succeed or be effective in ministry if his life is not right before the Lord. Many men have often failed publicly in the ministry because they have first failed privately in devotion to God. He explains, “Sustained effectiveness in pastoral ministry is generally realized in proportion to the health and vigor of the pastor in his relationship to God, the church, himself, the management of his time and manifold responsibilities, and his family” (227). A truly effective pastor will have a vibrant spiritual, emotional, and physical life before God and His people.
Pastors must have genuine faith and true spirituality before God. Martin writes, “We must strive to maintain a real, expanding, varied, and original acquaintance with God and His ways” (236). Martin not only wants his readers to be thoroughly biblical, but Christians who experience genuine fellowship with the Triune God through consistent Bible reading, private prayer, and a good conscience toward God and men.
If a pastor has genuine fellowship with God, the natural overflow of God’s love to Him will pour into God’s people. Again Martin writes, “You and I must experience a growing measure of unfeigned love for our people” (333). Sincere love will require great sacrifice like our Savior, and influence everything we say and we do. Those who have a genuine love for God’s people will fear God more than they fear men, and have a holy boldness to declare God’s whole counsel to God’s people.
Finally, pastors must demonstrate exemplary competence as a husband and father. The home is truly the testing ground of a pastor. If he fails in the home, he will fail in the church (1 Tim. 3:5). Many churches have too often suffered because they called a man to the office while overlooking his domestic incompetence. We should expect parallels between a well-ordered home and a well-ordered church.
AN ENCOURAGING AND CHALLENGING WORD FROM A SEASONED PASTOR
Martin’s book reminded me of my need to be surrounded by proven and seasoned pastors. His writings are not only thoroughly biblical, but wise and practical. I also appreciated that this book places a high priority on the local church and the congregation’s involvement in discerning whether or not a man is called into the ministry. This book will be a must-read for any man within my local church who is either doubting, wrestling with, or wanting to confirm his call to ministry. This book is also a must-read for pastors currently serving who need encouragement and biblical reminders concerning the task God has called us to. Pastor, let this book encourage you with your own calling and fellowship with God.