The Art of Pastoring

I recently finished reading David Hansen’s book The Art of Pastoring. I frequently found myself saying “Amen” at various points throughout my reading. What follows are some quotes from the book that really resonated with me:

“Pastors are made by God to be pastors. It isn’t a matter of our choosing. Pastors don’t choose to be pastors any more than hooks and feathers and threads choose to be a stonefly imitation. God chooses people to be pastors and makes them into pastors according to his plan” (33).

“The ministry in all its parts—preaching, teaching, visitation, spiritual direction, church discipline, church politics—works under the Lord’s sovereign hand to excise the pernicious tumor of sin from the parishioners we love. This process causes the Old Man to scream, bite, threaten, slander and accuse. . . . Enduring this abuse is quite necessary. No pastor in his right mind likes it. Quite a few people, highly qualified for pastoral ministry in every other way, find this to be the point of impossibility for them. . . . Enduring is never a triumph. It just happens” (43).

“I’ve never met an ex-pastor who didn’t like his new job better. Some miss the profound privileges of the ministry, such as being with people at significant times in their lives. But they didn’t miss the privileges enough to return to the ministry. I’ve never met anyone who had left the ministry but was tempted to go back” (69).

“I’ve never heard a pastor tell me he was too busy praying to do other things” (78).

“The soul of the church is being lost to a pandering pastorate. The church needs pastors who lead the church in repentance with love. The church needs pastoral leadership that refuses to take shortcuts and has the courage to allow the church to suffer so that the whole church can be a parable of Jesus” (82).

“Pastors are like football quarterbacks: they need to be able to take a hard shot from their opponents and get up smiling” (92).

“Preaching is an art, but it is not an art show. . . . Preaching is a form of aggression. As we preach, Yahweh, the God of war, conducts holy war to conquer territory. The field of conflict is the human heart” (108).

“The human heart is the most fiercely guarded piece of ground in the universe. The fortress is built up through years and years of self-justification and rationalization” (109).

“Jesus befriended those whose sins appalled good people” (129).

“What must die in every pastor is the subconscious desire to please people” (140).

When the pastor is going through “hell” in his congregation, he has three choices:

  1. Leave the ministry.
  2. Stay in the ministry but stop loving people (and become a religious hack).
  3. Grow up . . . the last option is the toughest.

Hansen also notes that those within the church who are upset with the pastor for whatever reason also have three choices. They are:

  1. The parishioner must decide whether to leave the church.
  2. Stay in the church but become an unloving member of the community (often these people remain bitter enemies of the pastor their whole lives).
  3. Grow up. . . . the last option is the hardest.

Hansen concludes this section with these words: “Growing up is making the moral decision to love those who make us their enemy and choosing not to see them as an enemy in return. There is no easy way to come to this place, but every pastor has many opportunities to learn how” (140-141).

“I believe many ministers who have affairs do so in order to get out of the ministry” (142).


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