I have just finished one of the most helpful and challenging little books on pastoral ministry that I have ever read (For the record, it always seems that whatever I just finished reading is the most important book I’ve ever read.): The Pastor’s Public Ministry by Terry L. Johnson (published by Reformed Academic Press). Terry Johnson pastors the Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah, Georgia. I first heard of Johnson when I was given a free book he had written at a conference I attended several years ago (Footnote: For a bibliophile like me, there are few things in the world that are more wonderful than receiving free books!). Afterward, I picked up several other works Johnson had written.
Johnson has written a series of books that I really appreciate: When Grace Comes Home (which explains the practical implications of Calvinism for Christian living), When Grace Transforms (on the Beatitudes), and When Grace Comes Alive (on the Lord’s Prayer). And when I found an article on public prayer Johnson had co-written on public prayer in the February 2008 9marks newsletter (click here for article), I began digging for more material by Johnson. This is how I got my hands of The Pastor’s Public Ministry.
The Pastor’s Public Ministry is the publication of a series of lectures Mr. Johnson delivered, which were later published as magazine articles. In this short book (only 82 pages), Johnson carefully and passionately exhorts pastors to make a renewed commitment to three basic, fundamental pastoral responsibilities: (1) leading corporate worship, (2) leading prayer in worship, and (3) biblical preaching. I have read quite of few books on pastoral ministry over the years. (In fact, I have already read four books on pastoral ministry from cover to cover so far this year.) But so many books that are written by pastors for pastors really have nothing to do with what it really means to be a pastor. I think this one of the reasons why I found Johnson’s Public Ministry to be so refreshing – even revolutionary. So many – too many – so-called experts promote various, competing programs, techniques, and gimmicks for pastors to use in church growth. Of course, “church growth” is usually measured in purely numerical terms of bodies in the seats or dollars in the plate, rather than developing fully-devoted followers of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18-20).
With all the books, conferences, and websites promoting different theories of pastoral work, it’s easy for pastors to become confused about what a pastor is to be and do. For the reason, Public Ministry is a much needed call for pastors to be actually be pastors – not CEOs, administrators, motivational speakers, or any other worldly offices imposed upon unsuspecting churches. The title of John Piper’s book for pastors says it well: Brothers, we are not professionals! We are pastors. And our public ministries should be concerned about ensuring that the worship assemblies of our congregations focus on the ministry of the word. And not just at preaching time, but also in the music that is sung and the prayers that are offered.
Johnson not only calls pastors to renewed diligence in overseeing the music, prayers, and preaching of our worship services, but he makes a sound and compelling argument – from both scripture and church history – that these are the proper priorities for the pastor’s public ministry. And he fills each section with practical advice for starting where you are and taking small but definite steps to watch out for your congregation’s souls in and through corporate worship. I warmly commend this volume to every pastor and every congregational leader and member who truly desires their church to be a biblically functioning community of believers.