Book Review: "The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry"

Throughout my reading David Rohrer's book The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry, I found myself returning to my southern church roots and saying aloud:

Amen, brother.

Rohrer writes with honesty, artistry, and wisdom as he takes the reader through contemporary pastoral ministry challenges using the story of John the Baptist. It's a unique take, one that I have not read or thought of before, but it provides several challenging insights and pieces of guidance that are invaluable for both new pastors and those of us who have a bit of seasoning.

Here are a few high points:

  • "We need a philosophy of ministry that is both unaffected by the contemporary situation and absolutely applicable within it." (15)
  • The primary task of pastoral ministry is to "Make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (17)
  • "...openness begins when people hear someone name their emptiness or identify their inadequacy. The word of comfort is best heard in the wilderness." (29)
  • "The scent of Jesus can be confused with the scent of the pastor, and suddenly we become the recipient of things that do not belong to us." (72)
  • "Nothing is forever in pastoral ministry. What is forever is the gospel. What endures is the Word we proclaim. The people among whom we serve may appreciate the ways we reflect the light for a time. But our light pales when they see the greater light to which we give witness." (170)

The one challenging or sticking point of this book is that it is written with the standard full-time, pastor-as-paid-preacher-and-counselor model in mind. I heard the same challenges presented in reviews of Eugene Peterson's The Pastor, and given that Peterson provided an endorsement for Rohrer's book the similarities make sense.

The strictly defined model of pastoral ministry that Rohrer hints at is likely seeing its days become numbered, however I think the call and instruction that Rohrer provides is principled and focused enough to be applied to bi-vocational pastors or missional community leaders as well.

I mean, he does use the Bible as support - and I think the Bible is still timeless. I'll check on that though.

I recommend this book to anyone who may be going through a "dip" in their ministry or who may be giving consideration to a pastoral call or position in the future.