Ancient Wisdom for the Care of Souls: Learning the Art of Pastoral Ministry from the Church Fathers

By Coleman M. Ford, Shawn J. Wilhite, Foreword by Ray Ortlund

... Show All

Ancient Wisdom for the Care of Souls: Learning the Art of Pastoral Ministry from the Church Fathers

By Coleman M. Ford, Shawn J. Wilhite, Foreword by Ray Ortlund

... Show All

Recovering the Wisdom of Early Christian Figures to Effectively Shepherd Modern Churches

In addition to the regular demands of preaching and shepherding, modern pastors feel undue pressure to entertain congregants and increase attendance numbers. Often, churches resort to the latest business models to keep pace. But true, life-giving guidance lies in Scripture and the wisdom of those having come before us.
Ancient Wisdom for the Care of Souls helps pastors to embrace a classic, biblical vision of ministry through the study of selected pastoral virtues and early church figures. Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory the Great both referred to ministry as “the care of souls.” Calling for a “return to the sources,” professors Coleman M. Ford and Shawn J. Wilhite ponder what a scriptural vision of ministry is, how patristic voices help inform this vision, and how pastors today can cultivate this pastoral vision in their churches. Each chapter examines an important pastoral topic—such as humility, the sacraments, and contemplative theology—and brings it to life through a constructive model and profiles of early church fathers. Encouraged by the patristic wisdom of Irenaeus, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and more, readers learn a simple and slower model for pastoring that they can emulate as they care for their communities. A slower pace of life may, in fact, help pastors cultivate the soil of souls more richly and, as a result, return to ministry as “the care of souls.”

  • Applicable: Enriches the spiritual and ministerial practices of modern pastors through ancient church wisdom, pastoral reflections, and examples from Scripture
  • Theological and Historical: Features detailed profiles of church fathers, including Ambrose of Milan, Augustine, Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and others
  • Written for Students and Pastors: Ideal for college-level courses, as well as new or seasoned ministers


Coleman M. Ford

Coleman M. Ford (PhD, Southern Seminary) is an assistant professor of humanities at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He serves as a fellow for the Center for Pastor Theologians. He is also the codirector and research fellow for the Center for Ancient Christian Studies. He also serves as an assistant pastor. He is published in the areas of patristic theology and Christian spirituality.

Shawn J. Wilhite

Shawn J. Wilhite (PhD, Durham University) is an associate professor of New Testament at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. He is also the codirector and research fellow for the Center for Ancient Christian Studies. He has published books and articles in the areas of New Testament, early Christianity, and patristic literature. 

Product Details

Title: Ancient Wisdom for the Care of Souls
Subtitle: Learning the Art of Pastoral Ministry from the Church Fathers
Published: July 30, 2024
ISBN-10: 1-4335-7549-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-7549-5
Category: Church Ministry
Biblical Studies
Retail Price: $23.99
Binding: Paperback
Trim: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Page Count: 256

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Contemporary Pastor and the Classical Tradition

Part 1: The Virtues and Spiritual Life of a Pastor

Chapter 1: The Humble Pastor and Basil of Caesarea
Chapter 2: The Spiritual Pastor and Gregory of Nyssa
Chapter 3: The Sacramental Pastor and Ambrose of Milan
Chapter 4: The Skilled Pastor and Origen of Alexandria
Part 2: The Theological Vision of a Pastor

Chapter 5: The Biblical Pastor and Irenaeus of Lyons
Chapter 6: The Christ-Centered Pastor and Athanasius of Alexandria
Chapter 7: The Theological Pastor and Augustine of Hippo
Chapter 8: The Trinitarian Pastor and Gregory of Nazianzus
Part 3: The Ministry of a Pastor

Chapter 9: The Contemplative Pastor and Gregory the Great
Chapter 10: The Preaching Pastor and John Chrysostom
Conclusion: Theology and Ministry for the Future
Suggested Reading
General Index
Scripture Index


“When Christian authors of late antiquity are read or consulted today, it usually has to do with matters of doctrine, like their superb and absolutely fundamental reflections on the Trinity, for instance. But their thoughts on piety, pastoral leadership, and soul care are also of immense value for our day. To be sure, they lived in a world quite different from ours in all kinds of ways. However, such basic issues as human pride, abuse of power, and sexual lust were as common in their world as they are in ours. And their wisdom on how to deal with these matters as well as their pungent and powerful reflections on spiritual formation are of enormous value in our bent world. This is a book to be read slowly and treasured.”
Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Ancient Wisdom for the Care of Souls is a brilliantly conceived volume, weaving together faithful biblical interpretation, engaging historical theology, thoughtful spiritual formation, and practical pastoral care as seen through the window of the church fathers and classical Trinitarian thought. It draws from the rich tradition of the church’s early centuries and provides pastors, students, and church leaders examples of great wisdom for the rigorous and complex challenges of ministry in our contemporary context. This book offers insights regarding the virtue, spirituality, theological depth, and ministry skills needed in those charged with the responsibility of spiritual oversight and the care of souls. Three cheers for Coleman Ford and Shawn Wilhite for writing this wonderful book, which will serve as a treasured resource for many for years to come.”
David S. Dockery, President and Distinguished Professor of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; President, International Alliance for Christian Education

“Pastoral ministry lies at the heart of the church. Its outward form is constantly changing, but its underlying principles remain the same. The distilled wisdom of the past is an encouragement in the present, as this guide to the teaching and practice of great leaders of the early church makes plain. It is a precious resource for us to ponder and to use in our service to the Lord today.”
Gerald BrayResearch Professor, Beeson Divinity School

“Sometimes it takes getting out of our own culture to see our misguided assumptions, including those about ministry. As pastors, we need to prioritize Scripture as our authority and glean wisdom from the local church, the global church, and the historic church. This helpful volume takes us back to the early church so we can learn from the church fathers about pastoral spirituality, theology, and ministry.”
Christopher W. Morgan, Dean, School of Christian Ministries, California Baptist University; Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Highland, California