What is the ultimate purpose of pastoral ministry? What emphases and priorities should fuel the pursuit of this purpose? These are perennial questions engaged by pastors, the churches that employ them, and the seminaries that prepare them.
As a New Testament scholar who works at the intersection between biblical studies and practical ministry, James Thompson suggests that we need to recapture the theological foundation for understanding pastoral ministry. In this careful, contextual study of Pauline letters, Thompson draws out Paul’s vision and purpose for his ministry. He concludes that the goal of pastoral ministry is “transforming the community of faith until it is ‘blameless’ at the coming of Christ.” It is corporate, spiritual, and ethical growth that Paul focuses on, as opposed to the frequent contemporary focus on numerical growth and individual needs.
Thompson recognizes the historical and cultural gap between Paul’s ministry context and our own, and he nevertheless believes that this vision of ministry has profound implications for us today. He goes beyond the emphasis on pastoral roles and mere pragmatics of much of the “how to” literature and offers suggestions for application that are rooted in the eschatological and ethical goals of Paul’s vision of pastoral work.
The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.
Without a trace of academic disdain for the hands-on, how-to skills of the practice of Christian ministry, Thompson proposes to bridge the gap that often separates biblical theology and pastoral skills. As a respected New Testament scholar, he stands within the biblical message and asks how it can be implemented in a modern pastoral context. He does not deal in generalities, but in-depth studies of 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Romans, and the Corinthian letters keep the study focused on the concrete grittiness of both text and contemporary situation.
—M. Eugene Boring, Emeritus I. Wylie and Elizabeth M. Briscoe Professor of New Testament, Brite Divinity School
The contemporary marketplace of pastoral ministry is long on practical directives, short on biblical and theological wisdom and purpose. Urging that, for Paul, ministry is partnership with God concerned with transforming faith communities, James Thompson both models how to read Paul theologically and with pastoral sensitivity and reconfigures the motivations, aims, and measures of pastoral ministry today. The result is a vision of ministerial formation and congregational shaping that challenges and inspires.
—Joel B. Green, professor of New Testament interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary
This compact book presents a unified vision of pastoral theology based on a careful reading of Paul’s undisputed letters. . . . [Thompson’s] focus remains unremittingly pastoral. One gets a fairly comprehensive overview of Pauline theology in the book. . . . This book admirably fulfills its goal. I highly recommend it for seminary students, pastors, lay ministers, and anyone interested in the pastoral dimensions of Paul’s letters.
With a great deal of emphasis these days on numeric growth, it is refreshing to find an author who points the theological criteria for growth as seen through Paul’s eyes.
This is a fine book worthy of being studied by seminary and theology school faculty as well as by members of parish pastoral teams.
—The Bible Today
James W. Thompson is the Robert and Kay Onstead Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies and the associate dean of the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University. He is the editor of Restoration Quarterly and the author of several books, including Moral Formation according to Paul, Preaching like Paul, The Beginnings of Christian Philosophy, and Hebrews in Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament.