“take and read” Good Books to Strengthen Pastoral Ministry, Issue 84

April 7, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

Augustine heard the voice of a child saying, “Take and read, take and read.” He opened a Bible, began to read, and was set on the path of committed discipleship and faithful pastoral ministry as the Bishop of Hippo and a theologian for the ages. Let’s assume that pastors do not need to be encouraged to read the Bible. But what else can we read that will enhance our preaching, teaching, and pastoral care?

Suggestion for April reading:
  • B.A. Gerrish, Christian Faith:

    Dogmatics in Outline (Louisville Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015)

Busy pastors are tempted to read in small chunks. Long books seem to be too time consuming. While challenging, long books are intimidating. Brian Gerrish’s 319 pages of Dogmatics in Outline (!) may combine length and intimidation in a way that guarantees few pastor-readers. So why bother to recommend it?
Gerrish’s Christian Faith is presented in three parts – Creation, Redemption, and Conclusion (which is where he locates Trinity!) – consisting of 22 theses on subjects such as “The World as Creation,” “Estrangement,” “Living by Faith,” and “The Covenant.” Gerrish is a historical theologian, and so each thesis is followed by an explication of the theme’s doctrinal development (with particular attention to Calvin and Schleiermacher). Gerrish then outlines his own position.
Some readers will appreciate Gerrish’s own positions, some will disagree with them, but all will be enriched by his careful analysis of doctrinal issues and developments. He raises questions and sets out options in such a way that readers are challenged to articulate their own understanding of Christian faith and life rather than accepting or rejecting Gerrish’s, or relying on customary views.
An indication of the character of Christian Faith may be gleaned from Gerrish’s Thesis 7 on “Estrangement” – Estrangement from the Creator may, as mistrust, be guiltless, but as defiance to the Creator is sin, which arises from inborn egocentrism and the collective pressures of society, infects a person’s entire existence with self-interest, and makes the self powerless to achieve the purposes of its creation without redemption. What follows in the ensuing 12 pages is an illuminating discussion of sin, from “Rebellion and Pride” through “Forgetfulness, Social Sin, and Anxiety” to “Estrangement and Faith.” Pastors, who are regularly confronted with objections to prayers of confession in worship, expectations that sins should be catalogued and ranked, or excessive guilt, will find their capacity to respond faithfully and pastorally enhanced by Gerrish’s careful discussion.

Each of the 22 theses is covered in 12-15 pages. Reading through one thesis a day, Monday through Friday, will complete Christian Faith in a month. The reward will far exceed a typical month of pastoral reading, and will have a direct impact on preaching, teaching, and pastoral care.

Why pastors should care about donor-advised funds?
Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are the fastest-growing form of charitable giving in the U.S. Donors use them by making a gift to a Foundation to establish the fund, then recommending grants from that fund to charities they support, including their church. DAFs also offer parents a great tool for teaching their children about generosity – talking with them about the grants they wish to make and the reasons for giving. Parents may name adult children as successor advisors to their fund, and use this as an opportunity to talk about shared values and excitement for various ministry and mission causes. The Presbyterian Foundation offers donor-advised funds with an easy online management system that enables donors to recommend recurring grants to their churches.
Want to know more about ways the Presbyterian Foundation can help you and your congregation? Contact your regional Ministry Relations Officer. Locate your officer online or call us at 800-858-6127, option #3 and we’ll put you in touch.