Friday, September 15, 2006

Timothy Laniak 'Shepherds After My Own Heart' (IVP/Apollos: NSBT 20)

This newest book in Carson's New Studies in Biblical Theology series focuses on the biblical leadership model that is pastoral ministry, giving a full-orbed view of this much misunderstood term.

It's great strength is that it is a refreshing reminder to one called to be pastor-teacher of what the whole Bible says of that great word: pastor. It is word frequently undervalued, and this book captures much of the servanthood and grandeur within the concept - recalling the multi-dimensional nature of such a role, and presenting the challenges and responsibilities of such a calling.

Key chapters are on Moses and David. Moses who led YHWH's people through the wilderness, and David, that great shepherd of YHWH's nation. They are seen as leadership prototypes, models for leaders who come after them - as well as being 'themselves extensions of the divine Shepherd who leads the covenant community by their hands.' (75)

Three exhilarating sections follow. The first considers Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah looking to the promises of a second exodus. The second considering each gospel individually, focussing on the Shepherd-Messiah, his followers and that great exodus. the third examines 1Peter and Revelation, calls to follow and serve the Shepherd-Lamb.

It is worth reading for three reasons:

1) It sketches a massive Bible theme in an exciting way.

It not only makes us think about that great Shepherd, but encourages us to ask how such imagery should impact church ministry and how we think of church life.

3) As a minister (or one called to be a minister) it reminds me much of who or what I'm called to be.

In terms of shortcomings, two spring to mind:

1) It is too long - it feels like it has been badly edited (though far be it from me to criticise Don Carson and Phil Duce, each of whose little finger has infinitely more experience of editing than my whole body!). The book is over 300 pages - and feels like about 220 pages-worth. There's nothing wrong with slow and careful argument - and some other NSBT volumes feel all-too brief, and I long for their expanded editions [Webb's Festal Garments with much more in each of sections II and III; Peterson's Possessed by God expanded so I can get my head round it - maybe a 'Sanctification for Muppets' version is what I need there!]. Yet I got to the end and thought: great, but a bit too long.

2) I'm not convinced that the first section on Background, examining metaphors, shepherds in the ancient world and shepherd-rulers in the ancient world is necessary. Perhaps it could have been included in the body of the book where needed, and cut out when unnecessary to the argument. Not that it wasn't good section, but I'm not sure it was either NSBT or needed for the argument.

Anyway, even after those things, I do recomend this a constructive read for those in church leadership or eldership, and particularly those called as pastors to God's flock.

Maybe read it fairly quickly for the big picture - which is its really great gift to the reader.


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