It is no secret that pastors get discouraged, overwhelmed, and frustrated in the ministry. Many resources are available for men who seek counsel in difficult church settings. Most of them pale in comparison to Jared Wilson’s offering, The Pastor’s Justification.
Wilson, a seasoned pastor himself brings experience to the table. But more than personal experience, Wilson brings the gospel to bear. The Pastor’s Justification is aimed directly at the heart.
Part 1, the Pastor’s Heart includes six chapters that uncover the motives, frustrations, and weakness of the shepherd leader. As a pastor, Wilson shoots straight here. He admits his shortcomings and my suspicion is that most, if not all pastors can relate.
In Part 1, Wilson exposits 1 Peter 5:1-11 and makes direct application to the pastor/elder. He reminds pastors of the mandate before them, namely – “shepherd the flock of God that is among you …” The author encourages pastors, “The freedom from shameful gain is found in the cross of Christ, the shame of which our Savior scorned, counting all the privileges of his deity but loss for the surpassing worth of the Father’s will in the purchase of the elect by blood, freely given.”
And while Wilson includes a wealth of practical help and encouragement, what really sets this book apart (his other books are no exception), is his unrelenting emphasis on grace, the gospel, and the completed work of Christ. An example of this kind of gospel-centeredness is found at the end of Part 1 as the author stresses the strict qualifications that a man must possess if he serves as an elder: “The kind of man the Scriptures call into church oversight seem beyond my power to become. And this is because he is. Left to my own devices and trusting in my own power, I can never be the pastor God has called me to be or the pastor my church needs. But the message of our faith is not ‘I am justified because I obey,’ but ‘I obey because I am justified.’ Embedded in the gospel is the power to fulfill its implications.” Gospel-centered and gospel empowered, pastors have all they need to minister to the flock in Christ-saturated grace.
Wilson concludes in Part 2 by surveying the five sola’s of the Protestant Reformation and reminded pastors that these five anchors ground both their lives and their ministries. Part two contains a theologically charged message that is sure to make the Reformers grin from ear to ear: “The justified pastor – the man justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to God’s glory alone, who happens to be a pastor – when taken on his good day or bad day, ministry high or ministry low, will be received with gladness and welcome. Clothed in righteousness of him in whom you trust, how can you be turned away?”
I cannot recommend The Pastor’s Justification high enough. Wilson’s approach is winsome, his theology is grounded in the cement of Reformed theology, and his shepherd’s heart is clearly revealed in a book that every pastor should read, absorb, and pass on to other shepherd leaders.