BCC Staff Note: This book review was first posted at Tim Challies site and is re-posted at the BCC with Tim’s permission. You can read the original review here.
A Difficult Calling
I admit it: I sometimes grow weary of hearing about all the challenges faced by pastors and pastors’ wives and pastors’ kids. Is a pastor’s vocation really so different from any other? Can it really be such a challenge to the rest of his family? Could it be that pastors are just a little too sensitive about the whole thing?
I haven’t been a pastor long enough to speak with a whole lot of authority. But a few years into this life, I can at least vouch that a pastor’s family does face a number of unique challenges, challenges that are different from those faced by a small business owner or salaried employee. (I have been both.) Pastoral ministry is a difficult calling not just for a man, but for his whole family.
The Pastor’s Heart
Brian Croft has a burden for practical matters of pastoral ministry and writes often at practicalshepherding.com. He has teamed up with his wife to Cara to write The Pastor’s Family. This is a book that calls a pastor to the task of shepherding his family through the challenges of pastoral ministry.
It took only a few pages for the book to help me grasp something that should be obvious but that had largely escaped me until now. Much of what makes a pastor’s challenge unique as he shepherds his family does not come from the church but from his own heart. In the chapter titled simply “The Problem,” Croft shows that pastors face internal demands of approval, appearance, success, and much besides. These are expectations the pastor places upon himself and they can soon come to control him and to dominate his decision-making. The demands soon become idols, things that hold out the promise of satisfaction and significance. Soon a man will sacrifice his family and neglect their care in order to pursue satisfaction. “The problem rests not in the demands and pressures we face but in how we create idols out of those demands, idols that lead us to neglect our family and dishonor God.”
The solution is to better understand, appreciate, and apply the good news of what Christ has accomplished, and to understand that our significance is found in him.
“Struggling pastors need to rely on two facets of the biblical gospel is they hope to experience its power: they need to own their sin, acknowledging their neglect and failure, and they need to rely on the grace Christ offers, trusting in the gifts and promises of God rather than in their own efforts to secure what they want and need.”
The Pastor’s Wife and the Pastor’s Family
With the foundation laid, the Crofts go on to write several chapters about the pastor’s wife and the pastor’s family. In most cases Brian writes the chapter with Cara adding comments here and there; in two cases, though, Cara leads the way and leaves Brian to add his comments. It is quite an effective format that accomplishes two things: it adds a woman’s perspective and wisdom and it also makes the book more applicable to a pastor’s wife. The Crofts strike a good balance between the descriptive and the prescriptive, between what the Bible commands and wise applications of that truth. They open up their church, their home and their family just enough to give us a glimpse of principles in action.
There are a few parts of the book that were especially helpful to me: the section on serving, encouraging, and discipling your wife; the section on praying with and for your wife; the practical instructions for individually discipling your children; and the two chapters written by Cara, since they helped me better understand the challenges my wife does face or may soon face.
All throughout the history of the church there have been pastors—and you may well know some of them—who have sacrificed their families on the altar of ministry. Too many neglected wives and forsaken children can testify to men who time and time again chose ministry in place of family.
Heartily Recommended to Every Pastor
Every pastor can testify to the power of this temptation, which is exactly why there is such an urgent need for The Pastor’s Family. This book challenges pastors to care first and best for their wives and children and it carefully draws upon biblical wisdom to allow them to do that very thing. It is a book I intend to read with Aileen and one I heartily recommend to every pastor.