The Work of the Pastor
By William Still (Christian Focus Publications, 2010)
The author of this book is William Still, the pastor of Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen, Scotland. His ministry at that church lasted between the years 1945 until 1997 (shortly before he died), an amazing 52-year ministry at one church!
This book consists of five chapters that were originally addresses he gave in the 1960’s. The primary aim in this book is to remind pastors that their chief duty is to feed God’s sheep. William Still was known for his faithful enduring ministry that was characterised by solid expository preaching. He was a man who was persuaded of his calling and with great seriousness and consistency ministered the whole word to God’s people. Sinclair Ferguson writes a very helpful forward, where he states that William Still is, “a pastor pastorum a pastor of other pastors” (pp. 7-8). In addition to that, Frank Lyall provides an insightful biographical introduction that helps the reader become acquainted with the author. Here is a brief overview of the book:
Chapter 1 – Feed my Sheep
In this chapter, Still discusses what a pastor is and what he is to do. He begins by stating that as the under-shepherd of God’s flock, the pastor’s “ultimate aim is to lead God’s people to offer themselves up to Him in total devotion of worship and service” (p. 17). What does this look like? In the rest of this chapter goes on to provide various aspects of the pastor’s ministry that are necessary in-order to fulfill this task. The Pastor must be an evangelist (pp. 18-20), because there will be goats among the sheep. Then the pastor is to feed the flock, which is his primary task. This must be consistent and faithful exposition from God’s word. The pastor is called to live by the whole word of God (pp. 26-27) “in order that he may teach the whole word of God” (p. 28).
Chapter 2 – The Pastor Outside the Pulpit
If the pastor is going to feed the flock of God, there are certain things the pastor does that come as a result of his pulpit ministry. This chapter contains very practical insights into what an effective and faithful pastor does. Still makes statements like, “if you are not interested in the problems of sincere, ongoing Christians you ought not to be in the work of ministry at all” (p. 46). Practical lessons are discussed in this chapter, including things like listening to the flock (pp. 47-48), applying common sense in ministry (pp. 48-50), building a fellowship with the flock (including those who are considered “odd bods” pp. 50-51), and the importance of visitation (pp. 51-56).
Chapter 3 – Complete and Contemporary
In this chapter, William Still reminds his readers of the comprehensive power of God’s word (pp. 59-63) and the need to preach it in our contemporary setting (pp. 76).
Chapter 4 – Commissioned by God
The pastor is commissioned by God to fatten the sheep so that they may be presented before Him for consecration (p. 85). This is a serious task, and it is very important for a pastor to be sure of his calling. Those who are not sure of this ought to flee the ministry in Still’s judgment (p. 94). He goes on to state the sad reality that he is “convinced that in the present state of the church, only a comparatively small proportion of those who go forward to the ministry are really called of God” (pp. 94-95).
Chapter 5 – Walking the Tightrope
In the final chapter William Still discusses the importance of balance in ministry. Still says, “the balance of being ‘in this world,’ the world in which impacts are to be made, and yet ‘not of it'” (p. 101). The way in which this balanced is kept is by knowing Christ, being sure of your call, waiting for His will, dying to self, and working in fellowship with others (pp. 116-120).
This book is described by as a modern classic. It is filled with pearls of wisdom from a man who faithfully served in the ministry for over fifty years. Still speaks with boldness, clarity, care and wisdom. So much can be learned from this small volume. As a young pastor I am very grateful for this book, and will continue to read it over the years to gain further wisdom and insight. If anyone is serious about the pastoral ministry this is essential reading.