Tom Nelson believes with every fabric of his being that the local church as God ordained it is the hope of the world. He’s devoted more than 30 years of pastoral ministry to this glorious cause.
But he’s worried about the pastoral vocation.
In his new book, The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership, Nelson observes a dripping irony. Though surrounded by many people, pastors are often intensely lonely and socially isolated. They work with the things of God but are tempted by the seduction of accomplishment at the expense of intimacy with God.
Shepherd leaders, according to Nelson, are forged on the anvil of obscurity and refined in the crucible of visibility. They get into trouble when they attend more to the church than to their own soul, or when they get sucked into partisan politics and lose track of their disciple-making vision.
Nelson joined me on Gospelbound to discuss flourishing pastors, congregational expectations, friendship, failure, Dairy Queen, and much more.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: Tom Nelson believes with every fabric of his being that the local church, as God ordained it, is the hope of the world. I mean, he’s devoted more than 30 years of pastoral ministry to this glorious cause, but he’s worried about the pastoral vocation. In his new book, The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership published by IVP Nelson observes a dripping irony. Though surrounded by many people, pastors are often intensely lonely and socially isolated. They work with the things of God, but are tempted by the seduction of accomplishment at the expense of intimacy with God.
Shepherd leaders, according to Nelson, are forged on the anvil of obscurity and refined in the crucible of visibility. They get into trouble when they attend more to the church than to their own soul, or when they get sucked into partisan politics and lose track of their disciple-making vision. I’ve got way more questions for Tom than he can answer in this brief podcast. But Tom is press president of Made to Flourish. He served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Kansas City for more than 30 years. And he’s been a council member for The Gospel Coalition since our inception. And so he joins me now on Gospelbound to discuss flourishing pastors, congregational expectations, friendship, failure, Dairy Queen and much more. Tom, my friend, thank you for joining me.
Tom Nelson: Collin, great to be with you. I like that Dairy Queen part. That’s pretty exciting.
Collin Hansen: I know we’ll get back to it. We’ll get back to it. Now, Tom, are the pastors you talk to flourishing these days?
Tom Nelson: No, they’re not. And just give me one quick example. I’ve never experienced this in 33 years I’ve been a pastor. It’s been a glorious calling, but I was with a group of senior leader pastors in Kansas city, and three of them were crying. I’ve never seen that before. And just one example, it’s not only the pressure. But just give one brief example. One person said this leader of my congregation, and this is a large church in Kansas city. I’ve known him since he was young. I baptized his children. I married two of his daughters. He walked in to my office one day and say, “I’m out of here, I’m out of here.” And it was tied to the political turmoil and just the devastation this pastor felt.
And I think there’s a unique true shepherding grief. If we’re really in it for the right things and really love people, and I think most pastors do, there’s a unique shepherding in grief calling. I don’t think we talk about it. It’s incipient. It’s it drips, but sometimes it’s just acute. It overwhelms you when someone you’ve invested your life in, leave for what maybe matters, but shouldn’t matter that much. And just abandons you. So I’ve experienced that, but I’ve seen pastors really weeping about those kind of things. Not just issues of doctrine, which matter, but it’s these other issues that are just ripping churches apart and really hurting pastors.
Collin Hansen: Is that a new phenomenon, Tom? Or is that something you’ve seen your whole career?
Tom Nelson: Well, it’s new in terms of the amplification, the frequency and intensity. And I would use the word irrationality. I’m not minimizing the emotional turmoil that many of our parishioners are facing and the conflicts. But I think in amplification. The noise is much louder. People are much more angry, much more suspicious, mistrust. So yeah, I think my wife is a mental health professional. And she says with her world, everything is amplified. It’s just louder. More acute, more intense.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. Oh, that is definitely a theme as our listeners. No one Gospelbound. But now you’ve given a couple anecdotes there and given some history there. What other evidence would you say for arguing as you do in this book or why the pastoral vocation is increasingly at risk? Or even, you go so far as to say, hanging by a thread?
Tom Nelson: Yeah, I think it is hanging by a thread and I’m, hopefully I’m not chicken little here. The data that I included in the book from the best studies, I mean, there are some pastors that are doing okay, and these studies were done before the COVID pandemic. Well, so I don’t know if we have the data right now that we need, but before somewhere around 40%, depending on, pastors who are really not flourishing. And you think about that means, that’s significant statistically. But I just encountered this over and over again on Made to Flourish, our national network. I have never had more conversations with people who are ready to toss in the towel. I’ve had many friends about my age who’ve said, “I’m done. I’m done.” So I do think it is a unique time for us, Collin. And opportunities, but a lot of headwind.
Collin Hansen: Well, talk about that. Why are you seeing that among pastors your age? I can understand a lot of younger pastors who might have had some false expectations. What’s the difference dynamic for a veteran pastor to make him say, “I’ll forget it. I’m just, I’m out”?
Tom Nelson: Yeah. I think it’s the accumulation of pastoral grief around pastoral leadership. I have never experienced and talked [inaudible] have had more board conflict, elder board session. And I think there’s a sense of weariness in some pastors who have been in it a long time to say, “I just can’t do this anymore, emotionally, physically, spiritually.” And I sense more and more of that as I talk to people, Collin.
Collin Hansen: You talk in the book about how congregational expectations of pastors have changed in your lifetime. I would imagine some of that is consistent with the themes of what you’ve already discussed here, but how else would you explain how the shift in congregational expectations?
Tom Nelson: Yeah, I would say expectations, but also more even mistrust. I mean, there’s a lot of data about the growing mistrust. David Brooks talks a lot about that among neighbors and friends. And yes, there are expectations, but I think there’s a growing mistrust in motive, a growing mistrust in integrity. And I think the pandemic has just only amplified that, Collin. I sense greater suspicion among people that I have some other motive, that I’m involved with CRT, or I’m involved in some political piece or I’m in, I’m too much a social justice warrior, or not enough. So I think that’s the sense of tribalism. You talk a lot about that, but I experienced that at a level I’ve never experienced that.
And I think underlying that, say lastly, is 30 years ago… And I’ve been around a while. But when I started in a pastoral role, the question I had for most people in a modern assumption was, why is there God? Give me more intellectual ballast. I mean, the Bible I wrestle with, but is what is, how can I know there’s God? God is real and Jesus is real. And not that that’s not there, but now the question is why the local church? Why the church? Why the church? I don’t get the church. Why the church? Why the church? And that’s the difference too, of being in that plausibility challenge of the local church as an institution, as an ongoing presence in the community, I have more and more people who will say, “I just, I’m done with the church. I don’t get the church. Too much hypocrisy. That kind of thing.” So I think we already have headwind on plausibility, on moral issues, cultural issues but the church itself. I’ve never experienced that level of questioning about the validity and goodness, not just truthfulness, but the goodness of the church, as we understand the local church.
Collin Hansen: You talking about Christians there? Non-Christians? Or both?
Tom Nelson: I’m talking both. Increasingly Christians. We’re seeing, again, habit change with the pandemic and online. But increasingly, I think the value proposition the local church by many that I can counter is less.
Collin Hansen: Well, One of the things people know if they’re listening to this podcast or if they have heard me talk, one of the exercises I try to walk people through is that we’ve seen 20% point decline of membership in organized religions bodies in the last 20 years. Now that may or may not be noteworthy for a variety of reasons. But it is, I think, for one that it was relatively stable, for set at 70 points for many decades before that. So what suddenly shifted? Well, I find it’s a helpful exercise to work through with students or pastors or others, to be able to discern what’s happening in our era, not the small blips that we tend to pick up on, but the whole atmospheric changes around us. And you’re making me think that the two that stand out to me would be the clergy abuse scandal of the Catholic church, which was about 2000, as well as the ubiquity of the internet. And especially the smartphone since 2007. Do you agree with me on those two points? Or?
Tom Nelson: Yeah, I think I do, not just because I’m agreeable today. But I’m just saying more personally, I’ve had more conversation around the Ravi Zacharias Situation. Again, without demonization, the impact of someone of Ravi’s stature and the level of corruption in his own life. I’ve heard those are things are just… Again, God is sovereign and not everyone’s like that. But that I’ve found more and more conversations like, “I thought I knew Ravi. I know people very close to him.” And the impact. Ravi was obviously very gifted and he was at our congregation three times speaking in 20 years. People knew him. So I think things like that too are stunning. They’re shocking. They’re destabilizing. They throw people off. How is this possible with someone with such passion and brilliance and, right, proper doctrinal conformity to truth to the gospel? He’s so corrupt.
Collin Hansen: Right. Well, you throw in The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Podcast, and that whole incident that we know well. Yeah, those are major factors. Now let me. Let me take this toward focus on what pastors can and should expect in their churches. A perennial question here, Tom, can pastors have good friends in their own churches?
Tom Nelson: Yeah, I think they can. I do have a couple friends outside the church because sometimes that’s really important for safety and confidentiality. But I do really believe that, but there are challenges that. And the challenges are uniquely in a local church community that’s really healthy is that you are not only a friend, you’re a brother and a sister in Christ, a member. And sometimes you have a reporting relationship with her on staff. And that does get both synergistic in ways that are beautiful like never before. It’s a picture of the new heaven new earth. Right. Everything just clicks. But when that doesn’t work, it’s very dissynergistic and it really creates all kinds of havoc. So that is the unique thing, I think, in a local church. You have to be a little bit careful.
Collin Hansen: Well, I guess that’s why, Tom, that… I mean, this is one thing I’ve looked forward to about talking with you is we can just get real about these issues. We’ve seen a number of pastoral suicides, and I think part of the… When something goes wrong in your church, especially if it’s your fault as a pastor, your entire life collapses.
Tom Nelson: Right, right. Because you’re all tied. It’s all tied together.
Collin Hansen: You lost all your friends. You lost your reputation. You lost your family, in some cases. You lost your income, of course. And it’s not obvious what you’re supposed to do with your life if you’ve been in that vocation before. So that I think is that what you’re getting at with that unique synergism of when it’s working well, it is amazing thing, but when it doesn’t, it’s uniquely threatening?
Tom Nelson: Yes. It is uniquely threatening. And one of the things, Collin, I think we… And not to minimize mental health and suicide. It’s a very tragic thing. But think we have to ask questions on a paradigmatic level. And maybe this gets back to the introduction of the book, if I may go there. Because no, we have multiple. I mean, again, I’m not hopeless. I’m very hopeful in many ways. I really believe in pastors. I’m one of them. I believe that they can flourish. I believe that church matters. But in the book I began critiquing, and again, I hope with humility and honesty, some of the paradigms that tend to inform us that actually deform us and I list three of them. I’m just saying. I think it’s not just sanctification, spiritual formation. It is that. But I think it’s the paradigms which frame our imagination of our place in the world as pastors.
And I highlight three of them. And I think they’re both really toxic or can be. One is the celebrity pastor. And I’m just saying that the celebrity paradigm is so perilous. And we can press it if we want. But I mean, you don’t have to be in a big pond. Yeah. You don’t have to be a big pond to be a big frog. I mean, big frogs are everywhere. So the celebrity dynamic, and again, the internet is profoundly, as Mars Hill talked about, right. That podcast. But the celebrity dynamic, the lone ranger is just perilous and it’s just all over the church. And I get the visionary and I may be a little more concern than we can talk about. But the visionary, there’s peril being too much of a visionary. But I think there are paradigms that we have to really think through biblically and theologically and historically, and adjust our paradigmatic understanding of our calling. I know I’ve had to.
Collin Hansen: We’ll keep going back and forth with some of the diagnosis and also the construction here that your book is just one of the best I’ve read recently on pastoral ministry. So thank you for that. And you planted a church and I’ve rarely seen a story like yours of planting through to this tremendous growth, and you still be able to lead there. And of course it never happens without a transition of your vision into shared plurality of leadership. How did you do that?
Tom Nelson: Well, apart from the grace of God, everything. But I do believe from the very beginning, we had a culture of shared leadership. So I do think I nourished that. And when you’re a young pastor, you do have mixed motives. I mean, I guess we all do. But I think God brought really great, gifted, thoughtful, humble people by my side. And I think that’s been, if you want to say, the human secret sauce to longevity, to health is that we have been very generative here. And we’ve been trying to nurture humility. And I would say I have worked hard not to be the visionary.
And when people come into Christ Community and I don’t always do this anymore, but I always used to tell them, “There’s no visionary here. Jesus is the visionary and the kingdom of the gospel. The kingdom. And the kingdom is our vision, right? This is the life God has for us now and forever. And that’s the vision we cast, not this next great culture future. We’re going to be 5,000 by 10.” That’s the stuff that’s really dangerous. So I just… I don’t think. I think Jesus and the Word of God and the vision of the kingdom and the gospel and its profound transformational life has been the vision we continually cast. And then we’ve tried really hard to share leadership and be generative of younger leaders and not build it around one voice. We’ve done our best there that we could do.
Collin Hansen: Yeah. You can be a great leader, but not the center of everything.
Tom Nelson: In Fact, maybe Jesus teaches us that, yeah.
Collin Hansen: We can’t be. That only he can be. So let’s do some diagnosis here. We’ve seen these stories of when it’s the suicides or Mars Hill or Ravi Zacharias, where it’s gone too far. How can pastors tell they’ve lost their way before the meltdown, before the burnout, before the disaster strikes? Do some preventative healing for us here.
Tom Nelson: Yeah. Well, I would. I would say pastors need to continue to evaluate their North Star setting. In other words, where their compass setting is, what’s motivating, what they tell us is. But I think the most important thing that I’m learning that I want to coach younger pastors in is to lead well, you have to be led well. This is the paradox of leadership. And there’s a curiosity, a teachability, a humility, a package, Collin, that I think we nurture with God’s help and his grace, that we are learning from everyone around us. We don’t think we have all the answers. We crash through the myth of certainty, and we try to learn what it means to follow well. And first and foremost is the fall of Christ. I mean, he is the great leader. He’s the one who guides us, right, in intimacy and direction.
So I’m just really convinced that the best way to guard against going off the rails is to be very closely yolked to Jesus. And one of my great texts that I love is Matthew 11, where Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary. 11, I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am humble and gentle of heart and you’ll find rest for your soul.” So I mean that passionate goal to not only be a shepherd, but to be shepherded well in our own life is the key. And I say in the book that sheep get lost, but shepherds do too, as you alluded to. And there are many ways we can get lost, of course. Distraction, certain kinds of compromise, idolatry.
But I want to say that the passion of my life is not to lead well. I mean, I want to lead well, right? I don’t want to stink. I want to honor Christ, but I want to follow well. And that is from cradle to grave. And following Jesus first and His Word, but following others, learning from others. And we have a residency program here and I learn a ton from these young pastors. It’s not just me teaching them. I learn from them. And I think. I think it’s the postural learner, a humble learner we need to recapture.
Collin Hansen: I love that, Tom. We’re talking with Tom Nelson here about The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership. This was something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, Tom. Would you trust a pastor who hasn’t failed at some big point in life?
Tom Nelson: I think I could trust that person, but I’m not sure I’d want to follow them in the right way. And the reason, I mean, failure is one of our greatest teacher now. I mean, there can be such egregious failure, we can’t fully recover, I don’t think. Some of our influence anyway. But I would say that most of us, you look at Peter, I mean, look in the scripture. But in my own life, God’s greatest glory, my greatest influence and my greatest connection to others has been a result of my failure. Classic example, Collin, is about 20 years ago, I realized I was committing pastoral malpractice in the sense that I wasn’t discipling people for the majority of their life. I was so much concerned how well I did on Sunday, rather how well God’s people were equipped for Monday. Now, for me, that was a big aha. I had this shift,
But out of my failure, we’ve talked about that, books have come. Made to Flourish has come. Try to help us have more whole life discipleship. But it was my own failure that I had to confess to my congregation, not the sin of immorality or financial malfeasance, but it was really not equipping them for where God had called them on Monday. So that’s just an example of my own life. I never expected it, but my own failure God has used, I think, to bring glory to Him and to build His church.
Collin Hansen: It is something that I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen it in my own life. A succession of failures at different points have been precisely. And failures, that’s just some ways for me, a gloss on just describing the disclosure of my sin, starting to myself. Sin that was so obvious to other people, but not to myself. It’s what been what consistently God has used to be able to help me.
Let’s talk about some of the formal training. You and I have been involved together in different ways with seminary training over the years. If you’re running a seminary, Tom, which is something I’d love to see you do someday, but if you ran a seminary, how would you change their curriculum? Would you add more classes on leadership and organizational change? Some classes on economics and vocation? Or maybe you just require everybody to apprentice at Dairy Queen? I’m not sure.
Tom Nelson: Well, I will say in my early years, we kid about that. I’m a Minnesota kid. And I learned more about serving people and how Christ conforms us in our workplace and dealing with people in those eight years than any time in my leadership. They formed me. So it’s just, again, I learned a lot. I’m grateful for those years, very grateful for the Dairy Queen piece. But If I were a seminary president or leadership… I was on the board of Regents at Trinity many years. I love theological education. I believe in it. A couple things I would say, you and I are both been shaped profoundly by Michael Polanyi’s Understanding of Tacit Knowledge. And I remember reading his book. This is 25, 30 years ago on Personal Knowledge. And when I read the chapter on tradition, it was almost an epiphany for me, Collin, because it’s so described Jesus teaching of apprenticeship and the transfer of formation and knowledge in a relational context and apprenticeship.
And Polanyi critiques the enlightenment of this distance objective knowledge to how important our personal knowledge is, and how tacit transfer takes place. All I have to say is I’m a fan of the seminaries. The classroom, primary classroom is the primary way where propositional information or knowledge can be transferred. And that’s important. So I believe in the seminaries. I don’t think it’s as much curricular change. There’s some. I think a much richer biblical theology. I think we’re getting there. I’m always been a fan of systematics, but I don’t think biblical theology has been there enough. But I would say this, I don’t want to get too wordy here, because I could really talk a lot about this. This really pumps me up.
Collin Hansen: So I asked you.
Tom Nelson: No, no, no. This really pumps me up because I do believe in it. And many of my colleagues especially have larger churches have more of a skepticism about the value proposition of formal seminary. I disagree with that. But I will say that we have to create more opportunities for apprenticeship and tacit knowledge transfer in a context of a relationship. This is where Polanyi’s work comes in.
So how do we become more tacit rich in training pastors? I think it has to be a residency model. It has to be more time where the church and the seminary cooperate, like at Christ Community. And we’re doing this around the country now more. We have a two year immersive residency program after the three of year MDIB, which allows it, right, allows the propositional framework, a lot of knowledge, a lot of tools and the languages. And imagine four, six of them being here after seminary, learning with us in a rich lavatory experience. It is transformational on virtue, on leadership because they’re immersed in a culture. So it’s not. It’s a both and. So I’m saying I’m not for more classroom, seminary classrooms, even on leadership necessarily. Or maybe I would even cut one on preaching, and I would do more in the local church. Right. But I do think we have to create residency models across the country where there’s much more tacit transfer, much more apprenticeship to repair pastors for the long haul.
Collin Hansen: You and I have both been involved with efforts to try to make seminary more affordable, and also to be able to allow students to move more quickly through undergraduate and graduate programs. And I’m grateful for those efforts. It does put us in a situation where you graduate younger and you’re looking for a job in ministry. And it seems as though there need to be these formal bridges that extend, that give you a different kind of training. Maybe you didn’t need more years in the classroom, but you still need more years to work these things out in that relational contexts there. So it seems as though that could be a good pairing there. Now, if you could do it all over again in ministry, Tom, what is the first thing you’d change?
Tom Nelson: The first thing I would change is I would focus on the primacy of intimacy and relationships over accomplishment. I mean, again, I believe we’re accomplish things. And here’s my picture in Genesis 17:1 and following, that’s the climax of the Abraham covenant theologically. And God says to Abraham, “I’m Lord God almighty.” What does he say? Two Hebrew imperatives. Walk before me, literally it’s an invitation back to the garden, forward to the cross. Right. Walk in My presence. And then the next Hebrew imperative is [Hebrew]. It is be whole. So you have this sense of, I would respond to cultivating intimacy with Jesus as the primacy of my life. Right? I mean, I can’t emphasize it. It sounds so basic, right. But then out of that, the text says “Integrity flows, wholeness flows.” So it’s intimacy, integrity and then influence. When you look at the Abraham covenant, the fruitfulness of a life, it flows in intimacy, integrity and influence.
And I would try to build on that framework early on in primacy of my life, my priorities. And of course it’s relationship with Jesus first. But as relationship with his church and relationship with close friends. I’m just much more convinced that God created us to be relational beings. And I’m all for accomplishment, but it’s just really important. I’d be much more relational. I’d have a greater understanding of my own relational importance with others. But I would say that’s where God… I’d spend more time in building intimacy, more time on wholeness of integral formation and then allow influence and fruitfulness that Jesus gives me to flow from those realities. I think the closer we are to Jesus, the more we are like Jesus, the more influence we’ll have for him. Again, for his glory. Right?
Collin Hansen: I love that, Tom. Just a couple more questions you’ve alluded to this earlier, but how does connecting Sunday to Monday help pastors, you write about this in the book, help pastors persuade and convince a secular culture to believe in Jesus?
Tom Nelson: It’s one of our greatest. We have incredible plausibility challenges to a secular world. I mean, there’s no question. People have a really hard time in their plausibility framework about our Christian faith. But where I think there are really inroads is when people in the marketplace… and that’s the main intersection. It’s just like the first century, the Pax Romana and the Roman road. We’re just at that with the global economy and the internet. We are at a place just like the first century, where the gospel spread. Right. So I believe that the church has to focus on that global marketplace and equip our people for mission on Monday. And it’s in that place of gospel presence, gospel proclamation, spiritual formation in that workplace, the ethics, loving our neighbor. It’s that place where many people who have never encountered Jesus, never understood the gospel, never would walk through a church, have the opportunity to see the Christian faith in a coherent way, and how it profoundly transforms ethics, how it transforms relationships and how it brings meaning to their work.
I’m a real Frankle fan. I think you know that. But I really believe we’re meaning-seeking creatures. And Frankle said we find meaning, he knows Torah, right, in the relationships we have, the work we do and the suffering we encounter. All three of those have a profound plausibility structure in our Monday morning work. And the vast majority of our congregation is touching the globe on Monday through their paid and unpaid work. So I’m just really passionate about not only the gospel mission there, but that’s where people are going to see, I believe, in incarnational ways, as well as hear the proposition of the gospel. That’s where most people are going to encounter Jesus moving forward. And we have got to focus on. And it makes the most sense that the gospel profoundly shapes and speaks into how God designed them. I get pretty animated about that too. I mean, that’s just so important.
Collin Hansen: It’s one reason we’ve always, I’ve just always enjoyed working with you, Tom. And for people who want to see more of that work down, I mean, of course, encourage them to check out Tom’s other work. But also this is part of why The Gospel Coalition exists. It’s right there in the theological vision of ministry from 2007. I got just one more question before a final three with Tom Nelson, talking about The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership. Tom, how do you measure success as a pastor?
Tom Nelson: The idea I would say we use the metaphor, Collin, of scorecard. We all have scorecards. Sometimes they’re formalized in our reviews. Most of the time they’re informalized in the expectations of those around us, in our own heart. So we all have a scorecard. This is it. This. And again, I think that scorecard is faulty for many of us, or I’ll just say for me for many years. So I would say yes, there are empirical ways to see success. It’s not that there’s not empirical data. I mean, if you have nobody coming to your church on Sunday morning, if you have nobody giving, you’re probably not successful and, right, you’re probably not fruitful. I use the word fruitful. But just because you have a lot of people sitting there on Sunday and people giving does not necessarily, I don’t think, mean you’re being fruitful or faithful.
Okay. So I would say a couple, three things. One is, success is determined by your audience of one, that you live before an audience of one, right? Secondly, that you love people well. I mean, you can’t always quantify that, but people around you know it. It’s like pornography. You can’t define it, but you know when you see it. You know when people love… a shepherd really loves his people. And people pick up on that. So do you love people well? I mean, I’m just saying. Do you have an audience of one? Do you love people well? Are you faithful with God’s word and teaching and the different areas of responsibility?
I will also say another thing that I do believe there’s not only personal success, but there’s institutional success. I’m a real fan of institutions. So in our reviews, we talk about, have I not only led well, have I followed well? Am I loving well? But am I building the institution for a long lasting health? Is there a healthy institution I’m serving? And the church is not only an organic reality, a body, it is also an institution. So those are some things I would suggest. I think I suggest more in the book.
Collin Hansen: Well, I hope people are getting a good taste of the book here. Flourishing Pastor. I had to read it through first time around. Came back again as I was preparing for this, and was even affected by more things as I came back through the second time. It certainly. It’s just like reading anything. It strikes you as different times in your life, and just felt like a time in my life where I really needed to hear from you, Tom.
Tom Nelson: [crosstalk].
Collin Hansen: And three quick questions to wrap up. Just off the top of your head, tom. How do you find calm in the storm?
Tom Nelson: Well, practically I’ve run a lot. I exercise a lot. I mean, for me, that’s how I build resilience. I find great spiritual wholeness and emotional wholeness and physical wellness in my regular exercise. And that means may not sound as spiritual but-
Collin Hansen: No. It’s great.
Tom Nelson: … we are physical beings. Yeah. So that’s where I find the greatest calm.
Collin Hansen: That’s what I was looking for. Where do you find good news today?
Tom Nelson: I find good news, not only obviously in the scripture, but I find good news in the past. I’ve said to our team during COVID, the tendency is to look for more information, more data and data matters or scenario planning or prognostication. But what I think we need most is wisdom. And we look back. So I read biographies of people in the past. Especially right now we are on World War I or other areas. So I would say obviously, scripture, the wisdom literature is scripture. I don’t want to minimize that. I soak my life in scripture. I think most of our listeners do. But I do look back at biographies. I’ve been rereading Wilberforce, just other wise people in the past and how they’ve navigated challenging times.
Collin Hansen: Oh, I love that. And then, Tom, you’re a reader. What’s the last great book you’ve read?
Tom Nelson: I’m a real Wendell Berry fan, but I won’t really go there. I’ve read. But I would say the book I recommend the most right now is Carl Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. I really think he did an outstanding job. And anyway, that’s the one I recommended the last year and a half mostly. So thank you Carl, for writing that. And I’ve been selling your book a lot of places.
Collin Hansen: It’s in the mail, Tom. Yeah.
Tom Nelson: It’s very good.
Collin Hansen: How about number two most recommended book by Gospelbound listeners behind Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly, which you already referenced that.
Tom Nelson: I love that and I love Matthew Levin. So I’ve been a real 20th to 30s. It’s one of my life verses.
Collin Hansen: Oh my guest on Gospelbound, just been my pleasure to host my friend, Tom Nelson. The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership published by InterVarsity Press. Check it out. Tom, as always, thank you.
Tom Nelson: Collin, thank you. It’s awesome to be with you, man.