What is a pastor? Is he a vision-casting leader? A theology teacher? A CEO of a religious organization? What does a pastor even do? Is he a guy who just preaches a sermon on Sundays, or is he the charismatic leader heading up ministry programs throughout the week? Is it really that important to have pastors in the age of endless religious podcasts, blogs, and Christian TikTokkers?
What is a pastor, what does he do, and why is he important—those are the questions that Feed My Sheep: The Anglican Ministry of Word and Sacrament seeks to answer. At 128 pages, this book, though leaving much up in the air, serves as a short but sweet study on the pastorate.
Feed My Sheep is a compilation of talks from the 2015 Junior Anglican Evangelical Conference (JAEC) hosted by Church Society (see my previous interview with Lee Gatiss). The contributors include Lee Gatiss, Mike Smith, Julian Henderson, Nigel Atkinson, Andrew Atherstone, Tim Ward, and Michael Nazir-Ali.
Feed My Sheep does not navigate the role of a pastor in depth, but that is not its goal. Rather, it aims at helping the reader understand the ethos of a pastor. One could say that the purpose of this book is to get people thinking biblically about the pastorate as a whole. The first three chapters focus on the pastorate and give the reader a biblical perspective as to what should be on the mind of a pastor: namely, to protect the flock and lead people to Christ, the True Shepherd.
This then is how the authors define the job of the pastor: it is plainly stated as the title of the book. A “pastor” is a shepherd, and he feeds Christ’s sheep. This is Jesus’ command to Peter in John 21, and it is what Peter in turn tells the pastors under him to do (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Feed My Sheep focuses on how preaching and administering the sacraments are the means by which pastors feed the flock of Christ. But before getting there, Nigel Atkinson explores why ordination is so important (Chapter 4). A man cannot simply enter into the pastorate of his own volition and just start preaching and handing out communion. Because this job is so important, God has set up the way by which men are called and ordained. And this process should be maintained because, well, the job is so important.
Altogether, two chapters are devoted to the ministry of preaching and the Lord’s Supper. The chapter on the Lord’s Supper is the longest, but it focuses more on why Anglicans have “tables,” not “altars.” This is an important discussion that contributes to one’s theology of communion, the primary point being that God feeds His people at the communion table.
The chapter on preaching was a bit disappointing. What this chapter has to say is very good, it just is not enough, in my opinion. In this chapter the author is responding to some overall problem in the Church of England, not giving an exhaustive study on preaching. This is noble, but it leaves the reader with more questions as to why preaching is vital to feeding Christ’s sheep. Then again, the reader could, perhaps, fill in some of the gaps by going back to Chapter 2, which tells pastors to give their church Christ’s words, not their own.
The book ends with a chapter on the Anglican Communion and explores the question, “What unites Anglicans today?” This is such an important discussion, but it did feel out of place with the rest of the book.
The main weakness of Feed My Sheep is its format. The chapters being derived from in-person talks at a conference make the book feel choppy at times. I’m sure this topic felt more consistent in person, but as a book, there is some disconnect between the chapters, and it leaves the reader with more questions. If you are looking for a book that can serve as your primer for pastoral theology, perhaps this isn’t it. But, if you are looking for a book that introduces the topic and encourages you to further study, Feed My Sheep will set you on a good path.
Overall, Feed My Sheep has wisdom to offer anyone—Anglican or non-Anglican, mature Christian or new Christian. I recommend Feed My Sheep as an introduction to the importance of pastoral ministry. This book does a good job of showing the Biblical teaching of the pastorate, and it provides a fairly strong apologetic for the importance of the pastoral office today.