Anyone who knows me knows that I love books. I buy a lot of books. My “to-read” pile is large. And sometimes I am not always keenly aware of what is in that pile. So a few months ago, when a friend of mine linked a video clip from Jared Wilson to my Facebook page, I watched it and wondered where I had heard that name before. I did a little searching and lo and behold, I had one of Jared’s books in my “to-read” pile. At the first opportunity, I pulled it out and began to read. I am so glad I did.
Jared Wilson’s story is what drew my attention first. The video clip posted on my Facebook wall was a short summary of Jared’s ministry commitment. To put it briefly, he left big city church planting and ministry in Nashville to lead a small town, rural church in Vermont. I was intrigued for two reasons. First, his “career path” seemed opposite to what a typical pastor would be looking for. And second, having been in rural or semi-rural ministry all my ministry life, I resonated with his heart for the people in the smaller towns in our country.
Jared Wilson’s book, The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in your Life and Ministry, is a wonderfully honest read. I found myself again and again nodding in agreement. His words were sometimes comforting, assuring me that I was not the only one going through this. At other times, his words cut to the heart, causing me to look hard at how I am living out the truths of the gospel in my life and my ministry.
The book breaks down into two sections. The first main section of the book follows 1 Peter 5:1-11. Here Wilson moves thoroughly through 6 areas that affect the pastor’s heart. The second section is built on the 5 “Solas” of the Christian faith (Sola Scripture – Scripture alone, Sola Gratia – grace alone, Sola Fide – faith alone, Solus Christus – Christ alone, Soli Deo Gloria – To God alone be the glory). In this section, Wilson is concerned with the pastor’s glory, which is not found in himself, but in Christ. In each chapter, Wilson takes care to challenge the reader, but also to build the reader up in the truths of the gospel.
I don’t know anyone more honest – and often hard on themselves – than pastors. For a pastor, there is always something that could have been done better. Someone else to call. A section of the sermon that could have been clearer. A person we should have spent more time praying for. You get the picture. If we are not careful, a pastor’s life can be one large session of morbid introspection where the pastor spends his time beating himself up for his failures.
Jared Wilson’s book does not excuse pastoral laziness or incompetence, but it does most importantly remind us to ground our identity and our focus not in what we have done or have not yet or will yet get done, but rather in what Christ has already done and what it means for us. There is a freedom that comes from knowing the power of the grace of God has been applied to our lives. There is a confidence that comes from being reminded of God’s call and empowerment. There is a sure and certain rest for our souls when we are reminded my hope of glory is not in my own achievement, but Christ’s achievement for my sake.
This book was a wonderful blessing to me. It is easily the most encouraging book for pastors I have read this year. 2 or 3 years in the future, I hope to pull it out again. My soul needs both the challenge it provides and the soothing encouragement it offers.