20 Quotes from the Book Your Pastor Wishes You’d Read

The following quotes caught my attention as I (Matt Smethurst) read Christopher Ash’s brilliant new book, The Book Your Pastor Wishes You Would Read (But Is Too Embarrassed to Ask) (The Good Book Company, 2019).


If you and I do not care for our pastors, then they will not be able to care for us. (11)

We tend to see our pastors at their most polished. I want us to see them, or at least imagine them, as they are. (13)

Delegation is evidence that our pastors do care for us, not that they don’t. (29)

We might want to say that motivating the pastor is up to them; they need to find motivation from the depths of their own souls, from their own walk with the Lord Jesus, or—failing that—from their fellow pastors or perhaps a more senior pastor. All that may be true. But the surprising answer the Bible gives is that we, the ordinary church members, are the ones who can motivate our pastors. (31)

Unless there is at least some whisper of joy in [pastors’] hearts as they do their work, some spring of gladness in their step, they will never persevere to the end. And—and this is the point—it is we who will suffer. (32)

Nothing so drains a pastor of vital energy as having to preach to, having to go on praying for, having to try to lead and care for men and women who are impervious to the good news of God’s grace. Hardness of heart is the great pastor-killer. (40)

Few things so encourage a pastor as eager listeners and learners. “I am so looking forward to Sunday’s sermon!” I remember a church member saying this to me, and the effect on my prayer and preparation was electric: “If they are so eager to hear, the least I can do is get out of bed in the morning and labor hard at the Word, so there is something worth hearing!” (41)

It is much easier to criticize preaching than to do it. (43)

It is a tremendous encouragement to our pastors when we thank them for their preaching, their teaching, or their personal words of Bible exhortation or comfort. . . . Being specific about something that helped you will be a particular encouragement to your pastor. (45)

Joy in pastoral ministry is fueled, perhaps most deeply of all, by signs of a local church who are walking in the truth together. In contrast, one of the most common and most corrosive vices is the Western habit of casual attendance. . . . You and I have no idea just what a motivating effect our simple regular presence can have on our pastors. (50–51, 56)

The way we speak of a church is rather like the language we might use of a sports team we support. The transition from “they” to “we” is the big marker. When I first began to follow Swansea City F.C., I used to say, “They are in such-and-such a place in the football (soccer) league.” But the time needed to come when I said, “We are. . . . We signed a good striker” (or maybe we didn’t). Is there a church you attend or is it a church to which you belong? Is it “they” (or “it”), or is it “we”? (52)

If you are a pastor and your church members think you have it all sorted, then you are unwittingly deceiving them. (62)

Pastors have no monopoly on pressure. And yet there are some distinctive ways in which pastoral ministry is draining, because people in need are draining, and it is in the nature of pastoral work that it involves intensive engagement with people in great need. All Christians rub up against sadness—but pastors are required to live with grief up close and personal. When the woman with the flow of blood touched Jesus by faith, he was somehow conscious that power had gone out from him (Mark 5:30); there may be an analogous sense in which those who show pastoral care can feel how it drains them. Plenty of pastors can testify to this. (77)

There is no doubt in my mind that churches that show kindness will have still better pastors as a result; for it is only natural that their pastors will return to their pastoral leadership with a fresh determination to love and care for, to teach and preach to, and to pray for these who have so loved them. . . . We must never underestimate the significance of our simple, practical, loving kindness to our pastors. (85, 86)

When we expect too much of our pastor’s children, it can become a crushing burden for them and their parents. When they feel they are growing up in a Pharisaical goldfish bowl, being watched and judged for every misdemeanor, it is not surprising if they kick against the faith of their parents. (89)

A church leader is particularly vulnerable to rumors, gossip, and false accusations, especially in our litigious age. Paul invokes a principle from Old Testament law, which said that an accusation must be properly checked and double-checked, to make sure it is really true. So, when we hear a tidbit of gossip about our pastor, how should we respond? Check that it’s true. “So, who did you hear this from? Have you spoken to the pastor directly about this to check it out? No? Well, then you are joining in with malicious gossip. So, how about you and I meet the pastor and say we have heard this rumor? Let’s see what explanation there might be.” (95–96)

I remember shocking the church I served by saying once, in a sermon, “If I have an affair, I hope you will love me enough to put me out of fellowship until I repent, and to stand me down from being your pastor.” But it was true; I did hope that. I would hate to serve a church who didn’t care about my godliness. (98)

Even with shared leadership, we should let the one entrusted with senior leadership actually lead. (104)

Some people are dreamers and visionaries who find it deeply uncongenial to sign up for another’s leadership; they always want their church to be pursuing their particular version of the gospel vision. They will be a pain in the pastor’s neck. (107)

We need to learn gladly to submit to the gospel authority of our pastors as they lead our churches. And not just to submit negatively—resolving not to cause trouble—but to submit gladly and energetically, engaging our energies with zeal in playing our part in pursuing a gospel vision that may not have been our first choice. (107–08)

If you want a better pastor, you can get one by praying for the one you already have! (122)

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