Think back to a time in your walk with Christ when He was most precious to you. Now that you’ve done that, I want you to remember how it felt to know the faithfulness of God, the mercy of God, and the love of God towards you. Do you remember such a time? Or have you gone cold and apathetic toward the grace of God? Do you daily appropriate the Gospel to your own life? In his new book, The Pastor’s Justification: Applying The Work of Christ In Your Life And Ministry, Pastor Jared Wilson writes for the struggling, hurting, discouraged, frustrated, and exhausted pastor and ministry leader in an effort to awaken them to the wonder and beauty of the grace of God. Wilson puts burnout, fatigue and similar issues in his sights and obliterates them with the Gospel.
In seminary, I had to read quite a few books on pastoral ministry and especially on how pastors are struggling. As I read the literature and studied the statistics on pastor’s leaving the ministry altogether, I quickly recognized it wasn’t just because of the job but rather it was because of their overall understanding of the Gospel. Ministry is hard work and if one isn’t called to it there is no hope of preserving. This isn’t theoretical to me, it is something I know well because in my thirteen years of ministry there have been times I’ve wanted to give up and I almost have. What was my staying power? My staying power in ministry was and continues to be the call of God on my life and the encouragement of godly counselors. Thankfully, Pastor’s Justification is not another how to “get out of burnout” type of book full of lists but is rather pure Gospel. Wilson notes, “There is only the gospel itself – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fusing this reality – the reality of eternal life – to the ordinary life of pastoral ministry is what this book is about” (19).
The chapter that was most helpful to me was chapter two called “The Holy Pastor”. Wilson notes, “the pursuit of holiness is the pursuit of Christlikeness. Holiness is Christlikeness”(43). I’ve seen many ministry leaders come and go in the course of my ministry. I’ve also greatly struggled with discouragement and depression, but I am learning every day to appropriate who I am in Christ to my own heart. This is one of the reasons this chapter resonated with me the most because if anything, the life of ministry can easily lead to a life of performance for God instead of ministering from a place of growth in the grace of God. I’ve said many times before, ministry leaders are first and foremost Christians. This means every ministry leader or office bearer is to grow in the grace of God. In this vein, Wilson rightly states, “Holiness is Christlikeness, and who we are justified by Christ will be sanctified in Christ and glorified with Christ”, also declaring “Make no mistake: he has declared us holy in Christ and he will make us so” (57). Pastors and ministry leaders are to be examples to the flock of what spiritual maturity looks like. They will often fail to be that example of maturity, but they are still to be examples to the people of God. This requires humility.
Another excellent statement by Wilson is “Only the gospel simultaneously provides the humility and confidence the pastor needs to be his real self. The pastorate is no place for image-managing, for worrying about our own PR. In any event, if everybody likes you, something’s wrong, and if everybody hates you, something’s wrong. Hidden with Christ in God, you’ve got nothing left to hide. Further, we are totally okay with letting Jesus define our identity and the shape of our ministries. We give him the honor he’s due by humbling ourselves under his mighty hand” (72).
Reading this book was a challenge in a very good way. Wilson takes aim not at just the mind, but he also addresses the heart and need for continuous affection for the Gospel. In the process, he challenges ministry leaders to apply the truth they preach. In a day when we’ve seen many ministry leaders leave and or fall into sin, I’m encouraged by books like The Pastor’s Justification and by pastors such as Wilson who seek to help church leaders apply the Gospel to their own lives. While this book reminded me of The Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp which is also an excellent resource on this topic, Wilson’s book takes the reader on a journey of what applying the work of Christ to our own lives as ministry leaders is all about. When one looks back on their ministry what can possibly matter more than faithfulness to the Gospel? What can matter more than faithfulness to one’s wife and spending quality time with the family? What can matter more than faithfulness to the Word of God? The answer to those questions is nothing. At the end of the day faithfulness is what matters most, faithfulness to God’s Word, faithfulness to God’s Gospel, and faithfulness to the gift God has given to us in our spouses, our families and to the people He’s entrusted to us to shepherd towards Himself.
If you are discouraged, depressed, frustrated, exhausted or a combination of all of those, I encourage you to read The Pastor’s Justification. In this book you will be reminded and encouraged about what the Gospel is, how powerful the Gospel is and you will see the Gospel powerfully at work in Jared’s own life and in turn in your own. In a day and an age where many pastors are leaving the pastorate, Wilson pours out his heart, passion, and considerable pastoral skill to help shepherd those who themselves shepherd God’s people by pointing them to the finished work of Jesus so they may grow in wonder at His truly amazing grace. This book would also be good for the lay person to read to understand what their pastor goes through and how they can pray for them as they seek to be faithful to the Word of God and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.
Authors: Jared Wilson
Publisher: Crossway (2013)
I received this for free from Crossway book review program for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”