Why I Wrote a New Book about Pastoral Ministry

Why I Wrote The Pastor’s Book

When Dr. Lane Dennis, president of Crossway Books, asked me to consider authoring what is now The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, I was intrigued, but unsure of what course to follow. So in the following weeks, I began to reflect over my forty-plus years of pastoral ministry and upon those responsibilities that filled my week, as well as my duties on the Lord’s Day. When Doug O’Donnell agreed to serve as contributing editor, my thinking was enlarged.

Having been busy pastors during our tenures, we hope to encourage and enhance the gospel ministries of our fellow busy pastors with the rich theology and resources that have sustained our own ministries. Thus, we have worked together to create a go-to resource that stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before, is theologically informed, and is crammed full of examples and ideas from which a pastor can selectively cull with an eye to elevating not only the weekly ministry of the Word in both contemporary and traditional settings, but the day-to-day pastoral ministry of the gospel.

We have limited the material we cover for various reasons. We wanted to center on pastoral tasks we have thought a lot about and that we feel are often neglected or overlooked, especially by the younger generation of pastors. We also thought that addressing many important topics, such as calling to ministry, personal character, family life, preaching, leading a pastoral staff, working with elders, church discipline, and church planting, would make this large go-to book too bulky to go to. Moreover, we know that excellent books and articles already have been written on each of these topics. We offer recommendations for some of these books in the section titled “Books for Further Reading.”

An Example

A brief look at the chapter on Communion will give an idea of how the book’s chapters work, as it includes a history of the Lord’s Table, a biblical theology of the Table, resources for the Table (numerous invitations, prayers, and confessions for Communion; prayers for the bread and the cup; and benedictions), the outlines of four key Reformation liturgies, the complete texts of three Communion liturgies for today, select hymns and songs for Communion, a liturgy for Christmas Communion, and advice on questions about the frequency of and participation in the Lord’s Table.

We believe, therefore, that the pulpit must be devoted to the regular proclamation of the full canonical gospel.

The information is arranged so that a pastor may select elements that will elevate the observance of the Lord’s Supper in the unique context of the church he serves. Hopefully, this and the other chapters will often serve as an inspiring one-stop resource for many busy pastors.

A Resource for the Whole Week

The Pastor’s Book is grounded on the conviction that all Christian ministry must be gospel-centered. We believe, therefore, that the pulpit must be devoted to the regular proclamation of the full canonical gospel—“that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). We believe that such preaching is at the heart of authentic ministry.

But to imagine that Christian ministry is accomplished solely by the faithful exposition of the Word is to diminish the expansive scope of the gospel and the pastoral calling, because the day-in-and-day-out ministry of the pastor is meant to be wholly gospel-infused. Take, for example, the responsibility for weddings—a duty that is often regarded by pastors as a waste of time, an ecclesial diversion from “the main thing.” Time-consuming, yes! But a wedding is not a waste if the gospel is made so integral to premarital counseling that the bride and groom go on to portray, over the decades, the union of Christ and the church to a lost world. Likewise, time has not been siphoned from “the main thing” when the gospel is winsomely preached from a Christ-saturated wedding text to a “captive” gathering of souls that may include more non-Christians than will darken the door of the church in a month of Sundays.

The Pastor's Book

R. Kent Hughes, Douglas Sean O'Donnell

Written by two seasoned pastors, this practical book is a comprehensive guide to nearly every facet of pastoral ministry, including pastoral counseling, hospital visitations, funerals, weddings, the sacraments, holiday services, and congregational music.

Indeed, properly understood, the day-to-day responsibilities of the pastor covered in the chapters on weddings, funerals, pastoral counseling, and hospital visitation all have to do with gospel events. All these chapters feature numerous templates and options.

This book argues and assumes that Sunday services will be gospel-centered through regular preaching that lifts up Christ through the exposition of the Word, and thus provides diverse orders of service that serve to exalt Christ. The book includes extended chapters on Sunday prayers; historic creeds; hymns and songs; baptism; and Communion, plus an “Enrichment” section on classic Christian poems—all crafted to enhance the exaltation of Christ in the Lord’s Day services.

Again, each of these chapters contains multiple examples and options. The chapter on annual services necessarily follows the outline of the gospel—Christmas, Messiah’s birth; Good Friday, Messiah’s death; Easter, Messiah’s resurrection—providing orders of service and appropriate Scripture quotations, songs, and poems for each season of the gospel.

It is our hope that The Pastor’s Book will encourage a thoroughly gospel-centered ministry; refresh the church from the wells of historic orthodoxy; provide many of the best practical examples; and become a go-to resource for busy pastors.

This article is adapted from the preface to The Pastor's Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry by R. Kent Hughes, with Douglas Sean O’Donnell serving as a contributing editor.

Related Resources

Crossway is a not-for-profit Christian ministry that exists solely for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel through publishing gospel-centered, Bible-centered content. Learn more or donate today at crossway.org/about.