Sunday, June 21, 2009

Retreat Reading

Last weekend I had my ordination retreat down in Rostrevor. As well as eating, sleeping, chapel, and sessions with the Bishop, we had some free time for thinking and reading. So what was my retreat reading? Actually, it was the same as my reading from my Deacon's ordination retreat: The Work of the Pastor by William Still.

The Work of the Pastor consists of a series of lectures to ministry students in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the 1960s. Still had been reflecting on forty years of pastoral ministry, and was passing on the priorities for the next generation of gospel workers. For him, the primary work of pastoring the flock is done in the pulpit, through systematic continuous exposition of the scriptures. The work of the pastor is to feed the flock, not to entertain goats! This is accomplished through preaching God's word, which feeds God's children,and also indirectly deals with a great many pastoral situations which would otherwise arise.

As well as writing on pastoral work alongside the preaching ministry, Still concentrates on the character of the pastor. The occupational hazards are clearly laid out and dealt with - conflict, cost and crucifixion as the pastor dies to self to serve his Master and the flock entrusted to him.

All in all, The Work of the Pastor is not an easy read, with many challenges for those engaged in this ministry, yet it is a great wee book to revisit each year and be encouraged for the task that lies ahead. Perhaps approaching the anniversary of my ordination I'll read this book and see where I need to keep improving as my ministry continues.

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