Book Review: “The Work of the Pastor”

By Timothy G. Campbell

Introduction

Rev. William Still was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor who pastored Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen, Scotland, for 52 years. While he was certainly known by many, he resisted rising through the ranks; he had many opportunities. Rev. Still was first and foremost a pastor/teacher/preacher to his congregation. In his view, that required his total devotion. However, he viewed writing and personal counsel of his congregation and his example of practicing the spiritual disciplines as a part of that calling. His church was never that large but was vibrant and healthy. He passed away in 1997, shortly after his retirement.

Sinclair B. Ferguson’s short foreword to this book is worth its price. Dr. Ferguson never forgot Rev. Still’s challenge to him and the effect it had on his life. He advises that every pastor should read the book each year.

A Quick Note

The Pastor’s Work was birthed out of five addresses Rev. Still gave in England in 1964. It is not about the mechanical fundamentals of pastoring but more of a spiritual and somewhat philosophical challenge. There are some “how tos,” but there are also some “how not tos.” But they are rooted firmly in Scripture and pastoral experience.

The Presbyterian flavor is noticeable but not distracting. Free Will Baptists will not find a single page offensive. While we may not agree with every jot and tittle that Rev. Still espouses, we will find our thinking tested about influences that are pervasive and popular in the current evangelical landscape.

Review

In my opinion, the best chapter is chapter five, “Walking the Tightrope,” however, no chapter is uninteresting. Chapter One, “Feed My Sheep,” emphasizes a thoroughly Scriptural approach to pastoring and preaching. Yet, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve heard all this before. Rev. Still deals with the lack of biblical discipleship and subpar preaching that has plagued evangelicals since the Second Great Awakening.

Chapter two follows suit by building off Rev. Still’s thoroughly biblical philosophy of ministry that he previously laid down. It would even be accurate to say that he helps us to see how the methods of a Christ-centered, Word-laden approach to ministry sits down in a congregation. He speaks of problem people, pastoral limitations, and interpersonal relationships but always in the context of scriptural precepts.

Chapter three is entitled “Complete and Contemporary” and it focuses on the transcendence of Scripture. He hits hard on the issue of not letting a narrow evangelistic perspective override discipleship. Free Will Baptists need to hear this. His words and unique approach are directly applicable to our lack of growth in the last few decades. While we might not be ready to adopt all of his methodologies, it will give us pause and move us toward weighty introspection as a movement.

“Commissioned by God” is the heading of chapter four. This section raises a valid point of our obsession with evangelism. While this almost sounds heretical, there are vital truths that will offer degrees of correction that are needed if received the right way.

Conclusion

As mentioned before, my favorite chapter is the last, “Walking the Tightrope.” This experienced shepherd ends the work with truths that will be personally challenging to every pastor. The wow factor in his work is substantive. It will make you think. It will challenge you spiritually. It gets to the heart of the relationship of a pastor to the church and vice versa. Personal illustrations are interspersed in the book, but there is no fluff, emotional or otherwise. This humble Presbyterian pastor has much to offer us.

About the Author

Timothy Campbell is the pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas. He is a sixth generation Arkansan and a third generation Free Will Baptist. He graduated from the Free Will Baptist Bible College in 1990 and has completed graduate work at Liberty University. He and his wife Jane have been married for 35 years and have one son, Ben who is the founder of Everyday Theology.

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