Book Review: “Portraits of a Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader” ed. by Jason Allen

Portraits of a Pastor: The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader.” Edited by Jason K. Allen. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2017.

I recently finished reading this book on pastoral ministry and was immensely blessed. As a young pastor, I find it necessary to immerse myself in literature that reminds me of the biblical mandates of the office; this work accomplishes just that.

The book is edited by Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The contributors are associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Contributors include Donald Whitney, Jared Wilson, Daniel Akin, and many more.

Summary: The book, obviously, aims to address 9 areas or attributes that the local church pastor must embody. Each attribute occupying a chapter in the book. The 9 attributes are as follows: (1) Pastor as Shepherd; (2) Pastor as Husband and Father; (3) Pastor as Preacher; (4) Pastor as Theologian; (5) Pastor as Church Historian; (6) Pastor as Evangelist; (7) Pastor as Missionary; (8) Pastor as Leader; and (9) Pastor as Man of God.

Each chapter has a similar format or structure. The first half of each main chapter is devoted to the biblical defense for the attribute. Adequate time is given to convincing the reader that the attribute is not merely an option, but a priority for the local church pastor. The second half of the chapters provide concrete practical suggestions for fulfilling the biblical demand.

Weaknesses: There aren’t many weaknesses to this book. I found myself nodding along throughout a majority of the book. But if I were to critique I would point out the following. First, the book felt a little imbalanced. Some chapters were lengthy and more thorough than others. For example, Daniel Akin’s chapter, “Pastor as Husband and Father” was the longest chapter and probably the most dense. While it is an important aspect of pastoral ministry I did feel like it was a bit longer (in comparison to the other chapters).

Second, I do think it caters to pastors who are ministering in the West. Some of the practical suggestions in the chapters would only or mostly work for pastors in the US or Europe. I could see some cultural contexts where the practical suggestions would work in a limited way. For example, some overseas pastors cannot build a library of church history due to lack of funds or the fact that it may not be available in their native tongue.

Strengths: First, the overarching strength of this book is its goal to be immersed in Scripture. Every chapter contains a biblical defense. The brevity of most the chapters makes it an easy read, but spiritually challenging. As a pastor in the United States, I did find the practical aspects of the chapters extremely relevant and helpful.

A second strength is fact that the book is a collection of works from specialized authors. While these 9 attributes are expected to be embodied in one man, this book was not written by one man. The author of each chapter tends to be a “master of his field.”

Third, the book is not overwhelming long. Brevity is a quality to admire in today’s world; especially brevity that does not sacrifice content. The short chapters can be read separately and rather quickly, but it is extremely thought provoking.

Recommendations: I would recommend this book to three types of people. First, I would recommend this book to someone already in the pastorate. It will biblically correct, calibrate, and encourage your soul to be faithful. Second, I would recommend the book to someone considering entering into the ministry. This book will help shape expectations of ministry to biblical expectations. I believe a lot of people enter into ministry with a romanticized view of what it will be like; this book paints a clearer picture of what God expects from ministers. Third, I would recommend this book to local church members who care for their pastor. People do not realize the spiritual toll that pastors bear. A local church member who reads this book will be able to sympathize with their pastor. A local church member who reads this book will also see the expectations of their pastor shaped into biblical expectations.

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