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Monday, May 28, 2012

"Pastoral Graces" (Lee Eclov)

TITLE: Pastoral Graces: Reflections on the Care of Souls
AUTHOR: Lee Eclov
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2012, (176 pages).

"Pastors, like all believers, are agents of grace." This statement sums up the thrust of the entire book. According to Lee Eclov, a seasoned pastor writing mainly for the exhausted shepherds of God's people, pastors need to learn to grapple with the newfound supernatural gifts of God, to grow in the process of dispensing grace of God even as they are receiving grace, and to practice grace giving in the communities they are in. The best kind of story is how pastors tell of God's grace in their lives and their ministries. In a nutshell, this book is about how God's grace flows richly through God's people, and especially through pastors and servants in the ministry.

Eclov begins the book with a sharing of his early beginnings in ministry work. He learns that pastoral work is not about a career choice. Going to seminary officially does not necessarily mean one is prepared for the ministry. For some, the "underground" seminary, or the unofficial school of hard knocks provide the true pastoral education. He reflects on the place of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors + teachers, as the "four ministry cousins" who each have their own particular voice. For Eclov, pastors + teachers are essentially "Word-working" people. The pulpit is a "Woodwork of grace."

Eclov shows us three gifts of a pastor, of authority, wisdom, and grace. The greatest is the latter. Grace in helping the worshipper approach God in the knowledge and presence of God's grace. Thankfully, Eclov also talks about the tendency of people taking grace for granted. It becomes overused. The challenge is for pastors to avoid making this grace to become "monochromatic" on Sundays. This means that pastors need to:

  • passionately preach grace from the pulpit
  • allow room for "romance" for the Word to make its way to the heart
  • allow room for light-heartedness
  • be open to visitors
  • ministry of walking around
  • ministry of prayer

All of these, and many more are ways in which to dispense pastoral graces, and enable grace to be refreshed regularly. Pastors are also "spiritual medics." Apart from hospital visitations, Eclov encourages pastors to demonstrate grace to people in the workplace, to adopt boldness in Jesus, faithfulness to biblical truths in each visit, and prayerfulness and honouring God everywhere they go, including evangelism. Grace is also like renovating our church.  When members of the church beautify the church, people come and will be amazed. At the same time, the church is also a building with broken people, broken dreams and hopes. Here, the pastoral grace is in terms of a delicate caring for souls. Pastors can remember that each time they care, there is a benefit package of pleasing God and God meeting our needs where we are. 

There is also a chapter on church conflicts. The challenge is to have courage to be brave and to tell the truth in love. "Frustration is an occupational hazard," reminds Eclov. This is not to be taken lightly as a "sour pastor" can hurt the church. Eclov encourages us that suffering is also a means to grow closer to Jesus. Interestingly, the thing about grace is that the more we dispense grace, the more we receive. Grace feeds on grace and takes a life of its own. Sensitively, Eclov deals with the tenderness needed for pastors to deal with situations at deaths and funerals. Each doctrine preached or taught needs to be practical and pastoral. One of the most important pastoral duties is to make people "homesick," as joyfully longing for God's Home. Ending with a theme from the hymn Amazing Grace, Eclov then tells us that grace will keep us safe if not now, then eventually.

Closing Thoughts

Pastors will resonate with a lot of what Eclov is writing about. In fact, the weary pastor will be very encouraged merely to recognize a familiar thread throughout the book: the pastor who dispenses grace needs grace as well to serve grace. The book offers three encouraging thoughts. Firstly, it lists out the need for pastors to recognize God's grace themselves. This enables the pastor to practice grace authentically. Secondly, it shows us the different avenues in which to dispense grace, through the pulpit, through visitations, through worship, through public services, through interpersonal relationships, and many more. This enables us to see the rich variety of applications where grace can reach. Thirdly, it encourages those in the pastoral ministry to serve grace with an eye on the Grace Giver. I particularly like the part about making people "homesick." Sometimes, pastors tend to be so overwhelmed by present concerns that they fail to incorporate more of the heavenly kingdom preaching and teaching. This is perhaps the biggest motivation for preaching grace: That God has prepared for us a beautiful and wonderful kingdom in heaven. Each practice of grace on our part is a gratitude for God's promises, not only in the past or present, but very much in the future.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Moody Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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