Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership by Tom Nelson

The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership by Tom Nelson. IVP. 246 pages. 2021.   
The author is a pastor, founder of the Made to Flourish organization, and author of Work Matters and The Economics of Neighborly Love. He writes that the pastoral calling is a very challenging vocation. He tells us that many pastors are not flourishing. When pastors flourish, congregations flourish, and when congregations flourish, communities flourish. However, when shepherds become lost, neither they nor their flock flourish.
This excellent book is about shepherd leadership. The author uses Psalm 78:72 as an inspirational framework for exploration and reflection. In Psalm 78 and throughout Scripture, the guiding model given for pastoral leadership is one of a shepherd.
The book is divided into three parts:

  • The Shepherd
  • Integrity of Heart
  • Skillful Hands

Among the subjects addressed in the book are pastoral isolation, followership, wisdom, self-care, close relationships, a hurried spirit, guilt, shame, cultural intelligence, political views, faithful presence, organizational health, storytelling, core values, the Sunday-to-Monday gap, a shepherding scorecard, mentoring and multiplying shepherding leaders and finishing well. Throughout the book the author shares helpful thoughts from authors such as Jim Collins, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James Hunter, Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, Max De Pree and others.
The book includes a helpful “Discussion Guide” and would be a good book to read and discuss with others.
This is a book that I can’t recommend too highly for pastors and church leaders. Below are some favorite quotes from the book:

  • Jesus does not offer shepherds a green room to pridefully bask in; instead, he offers a cross to carry and a basin and towel to serve with.
  • The vision pastors desperately need is not one of a humanized grand future, but a growing vision of the glory of our triune God.
  • The pastor has a lifelong quest not merely to know about God, but to know God personally and to be known by God intimately.
  • The big why that animates my pastoral calling, what gets me out of bed every morning and compels me to bring my best to the work God has called me to do, is I believe with every fabric of my being that the local church as God designed it is the hope of the world.
  • The shepherd leader is a highly relational calling. If people are not your thing, then pastoring should not be your thing.
  • Pastors must never forget that the sheep belong to God and that we are accountable for leading them well.
  • Shepherding leadership done well requires an ongoing growth in leadership competency.
  • To lead out of a shepherding paradigm, we need to receive God’s loving shepherding first.
  • The greatest lessons of leadership arise in the process of followership—both when we follow others well and ultimately when we follow our shepherd well.
  • The first call of pastoral leadership is to draw near to and follow our Good Shepherd in tender intimacy, daily obedience, and a lifestyle of joyful worship.
  • Flourishing pastors cultivate a constant awareness that they are never ever alone, that their Good Shepherd is right there with them, eager to share their burdens.
  • Flourishing pastors cultivate a growing and increasingly intimate friendship with the Good Shepherd of their lives, increasingly knowing him and being known by him. There is no greater personal joy or leadership priority than this.
  • Of primary importance is our own self-care. Properly understood, self-care is not selfishness; it is essential to our ongoing spiritual formation and a primary stewardship of pastoral leadership.
  • Imagine the impact on your life, your relationships, and your leadership if you were continually aware of God’s presence with you throughout the day. You would lead with bold faith, humble confidence, hopeful realism, and contagious joy.
  • The more we grow in Christ, the deeper our communion is with him and the greater our desire to be an integral leader.
  • The lost art of shepherding leadership needs the recovery of apprenticeship because it is primarily calibrated around a person, not a leadership strategy.
  • The primary aim of our apprenticeship with Jesus is not to accomplish great things for Jesus, but to enjoy a growing intimacy with Jesus.
  • Spending much time with Jesus is not an option for pastors; it is essential and the fountainhead of sustained and effective servant leadership.
  • Growing in greater Christlikeness is the most important priority in pastoral leadership.
  • Living and leading from an increasingly integral life is at the heart of being a flourishing and fruitful pastor.
  • True leadership influence must be fueled by the virtuous life you are living.
  • One of the most important skills of shepherding leadership is insightful navigation of the broader contours of contemporary culture.
  • As pastoral leaders of faithful presence, we must grasp that a primary work of the church is the church at work.
  • While pastors may have strong personal political or partisan views, I believe they must take great care if and when they bring them into the local church community.
  • It is not surprising that for many pastoral leaders, the most important question in considering a pastoral call is not the denominational affiliation, the location, or even the size of the church, but the health of the church.
  • Gaining and maintaining missional clarity is one of the most important stewardships of a pastoral leader.
  • Many congregants need much more encouragement and support for their work as well as guidance for how to integrate their faith in their workplaces.
  • A primary responsibility of shepherding leadership is encouraging and equipping apprentices of Jesus for their Monday worlds, those majority places where God has called them to be his kingdom ambassadors.
  • Building regular workplace visits into my schedule has been one of the most transforming and powerful pastoral practices I have ever embraced.
  • Our congregants’ work matters more than we often realize. The work they are called to do is a primary means of their worship and a large contributor to their spiritual formation.
  • The ways we often define and assess ministry “success” or “failure” need prayerful reevaluation, courageous recalibration, and in many cases, heartfelt repentance.
  • Faithful and fruitful pastoral leadership ought to be able to point to ongoing evidence of how shepherding leaders are being mentored and multiplied.
  • It is not uncommon to start well, what is uncommon is to finish well. How we finish will greatly shape the leadership legacy we leave behind.
  • Shepherding leadership is not a playground; it is a battlefield.
  • As shepherd leaders we are instruments in our Lord’s hands. Our lives and leadership callings are a sacred trust; they are not ours to squander.