Book Review: The Pastor’s Book, by Kent Hughes
Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry. Crossway, 2015. 592 pps, $45.00.
When I taught pastoral theology in a local seminary, I required my students to build a notebook over the course of the year that included not only my lecture notes, but wads of example services, sermon outlines, ministry strategies, and the like. I knew what it was like to start pastoring as a young man with little experience and having to figure everything out from scratch. My goal was to give these brothers a resource I never had.
Thankfully, my first charge was a small country church that left enough time gaps between crises that I could develop things like wedding services, pre-marital counseling sessions, and funerals as they came up. But that’s not always the case. That’s also why I was so glad to receive Kent Hughes new book, The Pastor’s Handbook: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry. If I was teaching today, this would be my first required text.
Essentially, Hughes and his co-authors have done pastors a huge service. In a lovely clothbound text, the gospel minister gets over 500 pages of immediately useful resources—real, tangible, immediately relevant help. The kind of help you need as you shepherd a church of any size.
Part one address the gatherings, covering Sunday worship services, special services (like Good Friday and Christmas Eve), weddings, and funerals. Each section begins with a brief theological consideration of the topic and is followed by multiple example services, suggested songs, and readings. One great benefit of an anthology like this is that it allows the pastor to compare and glean good and helpful ideas from a variety of sources without having to scour the world to find them.
In part two, Hughes considers the individual components of these services in more detail. The section on public prayers alone is worth the price of the book. He also considers creeds, how to choose songs, and even baptism. (The baptism section offers a warm defense of both paedobaptist and credobaptist views followed by a robust file of example services of both modes.) Communion is given a lengthy treatment and a rich assortment of services, prayers, “fencings,” and methods outlined.
The bulk of part three was written by Dr. Robert Evans who aims to describe in just over fifty pages how to do pastoral counseling. Evans’ chapter is thorough and helpful, even though it’s short. I have met so many brothers in ministry who have had no training in this area; I’ll now suggest they start here before moving on to some thicker and more vigorous treatments. Evans has given readers a great beginning so that they will know what to do when somebody in their church shows up for help.
All in all, I’m glad to recommend this book to you. When Hughes and contributing editor Doug O’Donnell came together to compile the work, they decided “to centre on pastoral tasks we have thought a lot about and that we feel are often neglected or overlooked, especially by the younger generation of pastors” (17). So, young bother pastor, take it from me: here’s a book not to miss. And to the seasoned pastors—yeah, old guys like me—I promise that you will find some fresh ideas alongside more than a few pokes and prods to re-think how to “fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.”