I just finished a great little book on preparing men for pastoral ministry. Prepare Them To Shepherd by Brian Croft should be read by all pastors, missionaries, church planters, and denominational leaders. In it, Brian does a great job impressing on leaders the importance of churches taking the lead in preparing pastors for service. “In other words,” he says, “seminaries do not and should not see themselves as the ones responsible for selecting, testing, and affirming ministerial callings.” Instead, this is the role of the local church.
Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary agrees saying, “I emphatically believe that the best and most proper place for the education and preparation of pastors is in the local church.” This book serves as a great tool helping churches improve their understanding and practice of training men for ministry. It offers a look at how one church is doing it well. Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY is the congregation from which this book’s example has sprung. Pastor Croft, his fellow pastors, and the congregation practice the old art of simply applying the biblical text, specifically the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3, to the lives of young men who have a desire to pursue a call to ministry. There is much to be learned from this faithful church.
Croft quotes Basil Manly Jr., one of the founders of Southern Seminary,
In regard to these qualifications, the churches are usually better judges than the individual himself, and must exercise their judgment with prudence and fidelity, under a solemn sense of their accountability, and lay not careless hands on heads that cannot teach and will not learn.
The book gives attention to the calling to pastoral ministry and the need for the church to assess and affirm it in the one called. It addresses the personal qualities where assessment and training are needed such as personal holiness, gospel-centered marriage, training one’s own children, and cultivating a heart of humility. Then there are the ministry training needs such as preparing and preaching sermons, visiting the sick, encouraging the hurting, making disciples, even doing church discipline. On the practice of church discipline which has been greatly missing in modern churches he quotes John Dagg, Baptist theologian of the eighteenth century, “when discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it.” The only kind of church that will be capable of training up biblically healthy pastors is a biblically healthy, and obedient, church.
The book has just over one hundred pages and has these chapter headings:
To what is a pastor called?
Who is responsible for the call?
Who should receive the call?
Who gives the call?
How to proceed in the call?
What is at stake with this call?
I hope my own church benefits much from this book. I recommend it for use by others as well.
I Timothy 3:1 “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”