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The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership

by Tom Nelson, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2021

Nelson Silva, DMin, serves as the associate director for youth and young adult ministries for the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, United States.

The Flourishing Pastor reflects twenty-first-century shepherding. Tom Nelson, an author and seasoned pastor committed to his church in Kansas City, recognizes that clergy members in the United States are dropping out at an alarming rate. This is due to not only moral and financial falls but also, for the most part, loss of purpose. What's worst is that those pastors are still preaching every week. Tom’s heart is on shepherding well; in this book, he tried to help other leaders flourish in their ministry.

In a rare weave of functions, Nelson espouses leadership with shepherding. Interestingly, the author successfully manages to address the shepherd before he gets to the function of shepherding. Nelson sees the pastorship as a sacred calling with a purpose yet desperately in need of self-assessment. Am I an apprentice of Christ? Do I love people? Am I practicing what I preach (integrity)? Am I always in a hurry? These are soul-searching questions that the author plainly poses to the reader.

When the spotlight shining on shepherds is brighter than the light coming from within, it’s time to be transparent and vulnerable. Equally alarming are the four Bs of expectations: bodies, budget, building, and more recently, brand. Unrealistic expectations then grow, anxiety flourishes, and a false sense of failure (or success) dominates. Instead, the Holy Spirit should set the agenda, and different questions should drive the efforts of the church: Are our congregants being well loved? Are the vulnerable being well cared for? Are congregants being equipped for all of life? Are a growing number of leaders being multiplied?

Nelson draws examples from his vast experience in pastoring and mentoring leaders. He also bases his premises on well-known authors, such as Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eugene Peterson, and Max De Pree.

The author uses simple, nondenominational (with a few exceptions), and relational language that draws the reader into a pastoral conversation with integrity, purpose, and recalibration. While any minister may benefit from this book, it is a must read for any senior pastor.


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Nelson Silva, DMin, serves as the associate director for youth and young adult ministries for the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Goodlettsville, Tennessee, United States.

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