From Where I Sit: Exploring the sacred wilderness of pastoral ministry

By: Tom Rupp, Special to the Telegraph
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Being a Christian pastor is a joyful challenge. Some may see it as a quaint and outdated calling, yet pastoral ministry continues.

The word “pastor” means “shepherd,” in the sense that a minister is a shepherd of souls. Such a calling requires continuous soul-checking. The cult of personality so prevalent in the world can also seep into the church if we are not careful.

Such a soul check came for me in a book I recently read titled “The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry” by David Rohrer (InterVarsity Press, 2012). In it the author uses the calling and ministry of John the Baptist as a paradigm for pastoral ministry.

In his acknowledgement Rohrer sets the tone for the entire book, declaring, “Apart form being a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have no hope of being an effective pastor.”

The key Biblical text is Luke 1:17, where the angel tells John the Baptist’s father that his son will “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Such is the call of every Christian pastor – “to call people to wake up to God.”

Rohrer asserts that “the pulpit is still one of the best places to hide.” He further asks, “What is it about pastoral ministry that attracts narcissists?” Part of his answer concerns how the ministry “puts me front and center every week” and that “when we are in the business of talking, it isn’t always easy to listen.”

The book traces John the Baptist’s life with relevant chapters such as “Call, Commission, Confrontation, and Confusion.” I read each approximately 15 page chapter slowly, taking time between them to let its words sink into my soul.

Even though some would try to think that “ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the church,” there is no ministry without God and His people. Real life is real messy and we shouldn’t “settle for providing people with the religion they want rather than the truth they need.”

As the author reminds us, “There is always something bigger going on.” He closes this excellent little 179-page book with a reminder and an encouragement. The reminder is that “nothing is forever in pastoral ministry. What is forever is the gospel.”

The encouragement is this – “God will be at work, either through us or in spite of us.” Your minister will enjoy this call to reality, a measuring stick by which to measure his or her life’s work.

Reach Tom Rupp at