Book Review: Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry (Willimon)

William Willimon’s book, Pastor, is a comprehensive guide to the pastoral ministry. It was definitely a wonderful read as Willimon boldly asserted what a pastor does, who he is, and what can be expected of the pastor. He makes his assertions within the context of American Spirituality that has a plethora of unfounded and frankly unchristian ideas of what a pastor is to be and do.

I admire how Willimon focuses on the role of the pastor in the realm of one who delivers the Word in order to form and shape his congregation. With my denominational context of Lutheran Pietism, there has been a de-emphasis of the pastoral office in light of the priesthood of all believers. Willimon though, challenges my denominational context by asserting the specific role of the pastor as one who is not only called to the congregation as a servant but is foremost called to be a servant of the Word. Throughout the entire book he is constantly placing the pastor and the congregation underneath the Word of God. Though not explicitly stated, he advocates for faithfulness over-top of success. In other words, he gives the impression that pastors should be so focused and intent on being faithful that they would not be distracted by possible political ramifications due to epistemological crises. Keep in mind that Willimon does not advocate for hostility, however, I get the impression that he would wholeheartedly agree with Luther that the pastor should seek peace when possible but fight for truth at all costs.

Speaking of Luther, I appreciated Willimon’s numerous quotes from earlier church fathers and pastors. I appreciated how he weaved Luther, Augustine and also insights from his personal experiences into the book. As one reads his book, it is evident that he is a seasoned pastor with a diversity of expenses and insights.

Personally, I believe that Willimon does a fine job of articulating the role of the pastoral office and ministry, especially when the world and much of modern Evangelicalism is crying for CEO Pastors, Life-coaches and so forth. I especially appreciated his insights throughout the book in regard to the church’s epistemology. Even though the study of epistemology is a definite hobby horse for me, it was refreshing to see his focus on the pastor’s role of bringing an alternative narrative to the parish, thus bringing about epistemological shifts.