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“Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically” by John MacArthur Critical Essay

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Updated: Dec 23rd, 2019


This article provides a critical review of the book, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, by John MacArthur. MacArthur is a preacher and a teacher at the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is also the head of the Master’s College and Seminary.

Together with his colleagues at the Master’s Seminary Faculty, McArthur did an exemplary work in this book by demonstrating a clear biblical perspective of pastoral ministry. This article supports the ideas presented in the book because they are based on biblical teachings, which are needed for effective ministry.

Summary of themes

The author makes a good presentation of the common themes and concepts by using them professionally, which proves that he is an expert in the field. Leadership is one of the themes that the author uses as a guide in this text. It entails the exercise of one’s spiritual gifts to serve a particular group of individuals towards achieving shared goals.

These goals aim at glorifying God in all activities. As a leader, one has to be ready to serve the people beyond all barriers. A godly leader has to be humble because the basic purpose in shepherding people is to show them the light by teaching the will of God.

A pastor has to be capable, confident towards the ministry, and lead others to commit their lives to God. The themes of love and compassion are related to leader’s personal and ministerial life.

Pastors should show love and compassion towards their families by being ready to suffer, be an encouragement, and diligently equipping the congregation to realize the spiritual gift of loving one another. Pastors should have unshaken principles rooted on the faithful teachings of the holy Bible.

Pastoral ministry should encourage strict adherence to sound doctrines by rebuking people who act against the word of God. By doing so, the church will be in a position to grow congregations with moral principles and the desire to glorify Christ.

Some of the most ignored, but essential concepts of pastoral responsibility is watching, warning, and counselling those who contradict the gospel. Unfortunately, many people are using Christianity to further personal interests. Therefore, pastors carry the responsibility of guarding their flock from false doctrines and spiritual scavengers.

The author argues that the relevance of pastoral ministry is defined by its ability to outreach and model people into sheep, which are worth to be in the God’s flock. It takes a pastoral leader much time to prepare and understand what to preach to the people and model them in accordance with biblical teachings.

MacArthur advocates the principles of watching and warning people during pastoral work. For people who want to be future pastors, this book can easily avert such interests if not well understood This calls for patient and resilience, the pastor has to take time go through the teachings and seek God’s intervention before s/he can spread the gospel.

The theme Shepherding has been analyzed as a calling where pastors should understand their roles and never be carried away by situations that lead to tainting the pastoral ministry.


Currently, pastoral ministry has been taken for granted with many false teachers flooding the field of evangelism to achieve their selfish objectives. The contemporary society is awash with spiritual predators, and thus it has become hard for people to identify pastors based upon what God desires.

This book is a great reference for anyone who desires to understand pastoral ministry from a biblical standpoint. MacArthur, in collaboration with the Master’s Seminary, provides conservative evangelical principles with a clear reference to biblical teachings.

Every chapter expresses ideas biblically with many scriptural references and links to other credible sources. The book is extremely helpful for anybody seeking to gain biblical perspective of pastoral leadership. When analyzing the roles of a pastor, it is interesting and controversial the way he explains some of the responsibilities.

For example, coming into terms with his argument about caring for the flock is hard, for he claims that meeting physical needs of the flock is a calling for the deacons or other staff members, but not pastoral ministers. The majority of people will disagree with this claim at the first read of the text.

Some critics will argue that shepherds should be ready to hear the problems of their flock and demonstrate empathy by lifting them up from their situations. On the contrary, the pastors should focus on preaching the word, modeling, outreaching, guarding, counseling, and refuting those who contradict the sound doctrines.

In this era of situational ethics and high disregard for evangelical credibility, the search for relevance and truth becomes inevitable for anyone to establish godly pastors. This book helps to develop essential skills of pastoral ministry after learning the roles of pastors coupled with how crucial it is to uphold this spiritual gift.

One great factor about this book is that the authors emphasize the seriousness of how ministering should be handled. Misguided craving for relevance compromises credibility of the contemporary churches. This scenario is contributed by untrained preachers who purport to be called to serve the congregation (MacArthur 2005, 55).

Unless the reader takes time to go through MacArthur’s book, it will be hard to comprehend pastoral evangelism from a biblical standpoint. The role of a pastor is extremely involving in terms of research and learning.

MacArthur is very clear on what takes to be effective pastor. No short cuts to pastoral ministry, and thus training is mandatory with godly principles for biblical understanding and ministry knowledge.

This book is authoritative and compelling. It shows that pastors must cultivate the habit of referring to the Bible as a philosophy to spiritual shepherding. The author is frank in his appraisal of what pastors must avoid by explicitly taking a biblical standpoint.

For instance, pastors should not be carried away by the physical needs of the congregation. Focus should be on conveying the message and diligently revoking their thoughts to apply knowledge in solving their problems. The author does not acknowledge any alternative to the Bible teachings.

In addition, he does not uphold excuse for any deed diverging from glorifying Christ. Any efforts that undermine or conceal the realities of the doctrines and dent the angle of their application are unacceptable in the pastoral ministry (MacArthur 2005, 93).

Careful approach to this book gives its readers an insight on pastoral application in growing a church.


Contemporarily, times are changing and so is the study of pastoral ministry. Pastoral ministry is taking a negative slope in terms of significance and credibility of its application. Technology presents many platforms where participants can share biblical teachings.

Unfortunately, most individuals follow the advice given over these platforms regardless of the credibility of the sources or authors. It is necessary for believers to be reminded of the fundamentals and foundations of the church. Pastoral ministry must stay true to sound doctrines (MacArthur 2005, 33).

This aspect will prepare the grounds upon which congregations will anchor and grow by cherishing God’s desires. In a bid to understand how Christians can go back to biblical teachings and avoid becoming a doomed church, believers should read MacArthur’s book.

Keen approach to the book is necessary for one to understand that the author gives the realities of the scriptures to encourage sound doctrine as opposed to scaring the readers.

This book offers detailed information to students on what a pastor should be and do. For instance, ministers should be role models by acting true to the word they are teaching and showing commitment to God’s desires. The author helps the academic community to distinguish spiritual leadership from misguided search for relevance.

According to MacArthur, pastors must lead the church in ministries only transcribed in the scripture like fellowship, missions, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and the word. This book identifies the balance between ministry and personal life.

MacArthur opines that pastors should be married in church in a bid to show example of a godly family as explained in the scriptures.


MacArthur’s book ideas, beliefs, values, and principles demonstrate a clear biblical understanding of pastoral ministry and its purpose in meeting the needs of the contemporary congregation. Some opinions given in the book may seem too strict and authoritative.

However, with the keenness and magnitude of reference to the bible in the study, the book comes out a credible source of information. The author challenges gospel ministers to practice sound doctrines in their pastoral ministry.

Prioritizing this book and keeping true to its knowledge is recommended in a bid grow ministry skills geared towards nurturing sound doctrines coupled with raising people with godly values.


MacArthur, John. 2005. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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1. IvyPanda. ""Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically" by John MacArthur." December 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pastoral-ministry-how-to-shepherd-biblically-by-john-macarthur/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. ""Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically" by John MacArthur." December 23, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pastoral-ministry-how-to-shepherd-biblically-by-john-macarthur/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '"Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically" by John MacArthur'. 23 December.

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