Why You Should Read This Obscure Old Book about Pastoral Ministry

A Pastoral Tension

One of the books that I always recommend to people is Gregory the Great’s, The Book of Pastoral Rule. He was a pope. Calvin called him “the last good pope,” and by everyone’s estimation, he was a very capable leader and administrator. In his book, he talks a lot about the tension that every pastor faces between what he called “the contemplative” and “the active”—what we might think of as your prayer life and running a business meeting, or the administrative load of being a pastor.

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals

Gavin Ortlund

This book aims to set forth a vision for theological retrieval, demonstrating through specific doctrines how engaging historical theology can enrich and strengthen the church today—without abandoning a Protestant identity.

Every pastor faces that tension of How do I cultivate a rich inner-life and focus on the spiritual aspect of my calling without neglecting my more mundane responsibilities? But also, how do I do those things without neglecting the inner? He talks about that tension, how each of those should be serving the other, and how much the work of a pastor is to cultivate a sense of balance between those two things.

How do I cultivate a rich inner life and focus on the spiritual aspect of my calling without neglecting my more mundane responsibilities?

A High Calling

He also just has such a high view of the pastoral office. He calls it the “art of arts,” and his book is designed to help us tremble before that office and to have a very high regard for it. Especially because it’s so different from some of the other books we read on pastoral theology, a lot of Protestant pastors can benefit from reading this book. It’s not that hard to get into, and there’s a lot of practical wisdom that we can learn from it.

Gavin Ortlund is the author of Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future.

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