By Tanwin Tanoto

Book reviewed: Tom Nelson. The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership  (IVP: Downers Grove, Illinois) 2021.

 

“When pastors flourish, congregations flourish, and when congregations flourish, communities flourish.” 

 

It is easy to be a pastor, but it is hard to be a flourishing pastor.

Wait, let me change that.

It is hard to be a pastor. Period. Let alone being a flourishing pastor.

 

In the age of ‘celebrity-ism’, this book challenges us to look at pastoral ministry and pastoral “success” in a different light. This book reminds us that flourishing pastors are “products of the supernatural grace of God expressed through the victory of the cross of Christ and the triumph of the gospel in our lives.”

What a relief and encouragement! 

 

Focusing on shepherd leadership, Nelson examines a shepherding leadership paradigm by looking into the integrity of spiritual formation and by sharing practical practices that fuel pastoral flourishing and leadership effectiveness.

 

Those three main ideas drive the content and heart of this book: The shepherd, integrity of heart, and skilful hands. 

 

Having been in a pastoral ministry for over 30 years, Nelson has some stern words to warn and encourage pastors. He warns of the danger of being lost as a shepherd. Lost shepherds do not know they are lost, and they do not know that they are leading in their state of lostness. Pastors can get lost in their callings by following the path of celebrity pastors, visionary pastors, and lone ranger pastors.  

 

“Pastors are not only shepherds; they must always keep in mind they are sheep too. Pastors who flourish live before an audience of One, but they serve as chief servants among a community of many.” 

 

The Flourishing Pastor also means that “our own spiritual formation is ‘job one’.”

 

Focusing our own spiritual formation by walking the path of obedience, living before an audience of One, and having a proper fear of God. This encapsulates pastor as being an apprentice of Jesus. More often, we live out the life of a pastor more than the life of Jesus’ disciples. In leading people, the danger is we stop following Jesus. Spiritual Formation leads to flourishing – in pastoral and in all areas of life. 

 

While most people see the pastor’s work on Sundays, it is the weekdays that are important. The invisibility of our work is shaping our flourishing. Nelson encourages pastors to be a  faithful presence.

 

“Pastors who embrace faithful presence serve with a long-term framework in mind.”

 

Just like spiritual formation, faithful presence also leads to flourishing. 

 

“Pastors of faithful presence are committed to equipping their churches for Monday, seeing their congregations called to a kingdom mission in the world. A faithful presence pastor and a kingdom mindset go hand in hand.” 

 

Overall, this is an excellent book for pastors. This book reads like a field guide in our work and calling as pastors and faith leaders. Not only that, it focuses on flourishing your vocation as a pastor, but it encourages your own soul to flourish. The book is full of insights, stern warnings, gentle rebukes, inspiring encouragements, and paradigm shifts for pastors and faith leaders. The Flourishing Pastor brings hope and healing to the pastoral office of the church.  

 

“Most important for pastoral leadership is our own life with God, our Great and Good Shepherd, our most important life coach.” 

 

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