Pastors are not immune to spiritual depression and burn-out. According to a survey conducted by Lifeway Research in 2015:
84% of percent of pastors say they’re on call 24 hours a day.
80% expect conflict in their church.
54% find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming.
53% are often concerned about their family’s financial security.
48% often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle.
21% say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.
This is one reason why books like Lewis Allen’s new book, The Preacher’s Catechism is so important. This book is aimed toward providing soul care for pastors by an experienced practitioner. This book functions well as a daily devotional. That is actually how I’ve read the book. There are 43 short, devotional chapters formatted as a catechism. Allen took the 103 questions and answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and re-worded them into 43 questions and answers aimed at pastors, particularly those that regularly preach.
The book is built on three central convictions:
- The church needs preachers who last and thrive (18).
- Preachers must understand how preaching works, and how their own souls work (19).
- The Westminster Shorter Catechism is an outstanding resource for the heard needs of every preacher (21).
The 43 questions and answers are divided into four sections. The first section is called The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching. Allow me to say, that Allen’s emphasis on the doctrine of God in this section is superb and a great start to this wonderful resource. Please feast on this one statement that showcases both the devotional quality and the theological precision of Allen’s writing:
“God is holy, merciful, sovereign, and loving. He is each one, utterly and completely. He is all of his attributes in their fullest expression, all at the same time. Our preaching about God, as we explore one of his attributes, never needs qualifying or rebalancing by talking about another attribute. Preaching is declaring all that God is” (28).
The second section is titled, Jesus for Preachers. In this section, Allen really focuses on the good news of the gospel for sinful, needy, preachers. He addresses questions such as:
- How did the first preacher sin?
- What is the good news for struggling preachers?
- Surely, we preachers don’t have to suffer, do we?
- Where does our reward come from?
In section three, Allen addresses the importance of Loving the Word. It is in this section that Allen showcases the relevance of the Ten Commandments for preachers. And finally, he concludes the book with section four titled, Preaching with Conviction. In this section, Allen reminds preachers that their preaching is a means of grace God uses to build His church. The sacraments preachers administer are a means of grace, a picture, God uses to build His church. The Scripture proclaimed in word and picture are a means of grace God is using in a way we won’t see fully until Christ’s second advent.
Preacher, rest in Christ. Feast on Christ. Persevere. This is Allen’s charge to us, and it is a timely and soul-nourishing charge.
Joey Tomlinson (DMin, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a husband, father, and pastor at a local church in Newport News, Virginia. He blogs regularly on broadoakpiety.org and hosts a weekly podcast called The Broad Oak Piety Podcast with another local pastor in the community.