In his preface to the brand-new Lexham Ministry Guides, Harold L. Senkbeil describes the care-filled and practical wisdom that can be found in this series.
What’s old is new again.
The church in ages past has focused her mission through every changing era on one unchanging, Spirit-given task: the care of souls in Jesus’ name. Christian clergy in every generation have devoted themselves to bringing Christ’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation to people by first bringing them to faith and then keeping them in the faith all life long.
These people—these blood-bought souls—are cared for just as a doctor cares for bodies. The first step is carefully observing the symptoms of distress, then diagnosing the ailment behind these symptoms. Only after careful observation and informed diagnosis can a physician of souls proceed—treating not the symptoms, but the underlying disease.
Attention and intention are essential for quality pastoral care. Pastors first attentively listen with Christ’s ears and then intentionally speak with Christ’s mouth. Soul care is a ministry of the Word; it is rooted in the conviction that God’s Word is efficacious—it does what it says (Isa 55:10–11).
This careful, care-filled pastoral work is more art than science. It’s the practical wisdom of theology, rooted in focused study of God’s word and informed by the example of generations past. It’s an aptitude more than a skillset, developed through years of ministry experience and ongoing conversation with colleagues.
The challenges of our turbulent era are driving conscientious evangelists and pastors to return to the soul care tradition to find effective tools for contemporary ministry. It’s this collegial conversation that each author in this series engages—speaking from their own knowledge and experience. We want to learn from each other’s insights to enrich the soul care tradition. How can we best address contemporary challenges with the timeless treasures of the Word of God?
In the Lexham Ministry Guides you will meet new colleagues to enlarge and enrich your unique ministry to better serve the Savior’s sheep and lambs with confidence. These men and women are in touch with people in different subcultures and settings, where they are daily engaged in learning the practical wisdom of the care of souls in real-life ministry settings just like yours. They will share their own personal insights and approaches to one of the myriad aspects of contemporary ministry.
Though their methods vary, they flow from one common conviction: all pastoral work is rooted in a pastoral habitus, or disposition. What every pastor does day after day is an expression of who the pastor is as a servant of Christ and a steward of God’s mysteries (1 Cor 4:1).
Although the authors may come from theological traditions different than yours, you will find a wealth of strategies and tactics for practical ministry you can apply, informed by your own confession of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Our Lord doesn’t call us to success, as if the results were up to us: “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). No, our Lord asks us to be faithful laborers in the service of souls he has purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).
Nor does our Lord expect us to have all the answers: “I will give you a mouth and wisdom” (Luke 21:15). Jesus, the eternal Word of the Father, is the Answer who gives us words when we need them to give to our neighbors when they need them. After all, Jesus sees deeper into our hearts than we do; he knows what we need. He is the wisdom of God in every generation (1 Cor 1:24).
But wisdom takes time. The Lord our God creates, redeems, and sanctifies merely by his words. He could give us success and answers now, but he usually doesn’t. We learn over time through challenges and frustrations—even Jesus grew over time (Luke 2:52). The Lexham Ministry Guides offer practical wisdom for the church.
My prayer is that you grow in humble appreciation of the rare honor and responsibility that Christ Jesus bestowed on you in the power and presence of his Spirit: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
Father in heaven, as in every generation you send forth laborers to do your work and equip them by your word, so we pray that in this our time you will continue to send forth your Spirit by that word. Equip your servants with everything good that they may do your will, working in them that which is well pleasing in your sight. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Harold L. Senkbeil, General Editor
September 14, 2020
Holy Cross Day
Lexham Ministry Guides: For the Care of Souls
The Lexham Ministry Guides, edited by Harold L. Senkbeil, offer practical, proven wisdom for the church. But wisdom takes time. The authors in this series developed their wisdom through years of ministry experience and conversations with colleagues. These books invite you to enter into these conversations to better serve the Savior’s sheep and lambs with confidence. You will find hands-on tools, lessons from years of ministry experience, and an array of resources to apply to your own ministry context.