Scottish evangelical Christianity represents a tradition of biblically faithful, theologically rich, and spiritually powerful devotion and ministry. I think, for example, of William Still, Eric Alexander, and Sinclair Ferguson as outstanding representatives of this glorious tradition. And I can’t think of these men and others like them and what they stand for without emotion.
So my review of Ferguson’s new book, Some Pastors and Teachers: Reflecting a Biblical Vision of What Every Minister Is Called to Be, is not detached, neutral, impartial. I love this book. I love its author. I owe him, and the others who stand with him in this remarkable manifestation of Christianity, a profound debt of personal gratitude.
Master Course in Pastoral Ministry
Some Pastors and Teachers is Ferguson opening up to younger ministers this venerable ministerial tradition. He shares his mind and heart and lifetime of ministry for the instruction, encouragement, and benefit of the rising generation of pastors. He writes in the spirit of the apostle: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). With modesty, Ferguson explains:
In this sense Some Pastors and Teachers is simply a way of saying, “These are some of the gifts that the Lord has given to me for others who have an interest in and a concern for the ministry of the gospel. I know the parcels are small; but I hope there will be something inside them that will be a blessing and an encouragement to you.” (xiii)
These “small parcels” are 39 essays from Ferguson’s written ministry through the years “on doctrines and themes especially relevant to the preaching of the gospel” (xi). He draws on the wisdom of significant pastors in history—John Calvin, John Owen, and the Puritans. He expounds on the pastoral significance of Scripture, biblical theology, assurance, spirituality, confession, preaching Christ in the Old Testament, preaching the atonement, and more. Each chapter stands on its own, so a reader can “enter and leave at any point they choose” (xiv).
Here’s one way to think of Some Pastors and Teachers: What if you could take a seminary-level course in pastoral ministry from the Rev. Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, for one academic year, with one lecture per week for 39 weeks, each one about an hour in length, for a mere $45—and even less at Amazon.com? Who would not sign up for that course eagerly?
Well, you can take that course, and you don’t have to move to Dundee, Scotland, where Ferguson lives and serves. You can take that course right now, starting whenever it works for you, as you sit comfortably at home. It comes to you in the form of this wonderful book.
Some Pastors and Teachers is a volume for every minister’s study and indeed for the bookshelves and bedside tables of everyone who has a concern for the ministry of the gospel and the well-being of the church in the 21st century.
In many ways, it reflects the biblical vision of what every minister is called to be: pastor, teacher, counselor, and example—but also a man who is growing spiritually, both in understanding and in character, before the eyes of his congregation.
The burden of the book is to help young pastors set out on a life trajectory of ongoing growth, so that through the years they bear richer, deeper, more abundant fruit. I remember my dad, the greatest pastor I’ve ever known, lamenting to me privately that some pastors seemed to level off after perhaps 20 or so years in the ministry. Their files had become comfortably filled with sermons that seemed to “work.” So they began to slow down and settle and recycle old material. After all, it’s hard work to keep stretching and learning. It takes courage to see and declare new insights. Why not allow oneself to keep using what’s already there? Why not even move to another church and preach old sermons as if they were fresh and new and hard-won?
What if you could take a seminary-level course in pastoral ministry from Sinclair Ferguson? You can.
Dad said to me, “I refuse to stagnate. God helping me, I will keep studying and stay fresh all the way to the end!” He reminded me of the apostle Paul, who, even as an old man and not far from death, requested “the books and the parchments” (2 Tim. 4:13). He reminded me of Paul’s exhortation that we ministers keep hustling, “so that all may see your progress” (1 Tim. 4:15).
After my dad’s death in 2007, I found a note he had written to himself in January of that year, committing himself to new steps of growth over the next six months—which, indeed, were his last on earth. The apostolic spirit of “I press on” (Phil. 3:12–14) filled his heart. That same spirit fills Some Pastors and Teachers in a profound way. This book can position a young minister for a lifetime of fruitful ministry, worthy of a “Well done” from our Lord himself.
Some Pastors and Teachers will bring Sinclair Ferguson into your life as an inspiring teacher and at times as a gentle goad, helping you fan into flame the gift of God which is in you, so that you fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 1:6; 4:5). If you will “take up and read,” with a humble heart before the Lord, there need be no end to your growth in grace and progress in ministry, all the way to your promotion to glory.