"Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible" by Timothy S. Laniak

Sean Michael Lucas
Wednesday, May 2nd 2007
Nov/Dec 2006

In his book Shepherds After My Own Heart, Timothy Laniak provides in-depth exegetical examination of the pastoral leadership theme throughout Scripture. Laniak, associate professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, marshals a wide number of texts to help transform the perspective of pastors and ministry leaders in a number of important ways.

First, Laniak demonstrates quite clearly that those who serve as pastoral leaders serve under God who himself cares for and shepherds his own people. While this theme was most powerfully demonstrated in a negative fashion in Laniak's engagement of the major prophets, it is nonetheless clear that "God is the ultimate shepherd of his people. He calls human deputies to work for him … to be a shepherd is to be both responsible for (the flock) and responsible to (the Owner)" (248).

In addition, pastoral leaders care for God's people in this time between times as God's people live in exile from their true home. Most powerfully demonstrated again in the section on the major prophets, but also in 1 Peter and Revelation, shepherds share in the sufferings of the chief shepherd, Jesus, who leads his people to himself. Again, because this world is not home, pastoral leaders do not use God's people to develop power bases or fiefdoms.

A third insight that Laniak develops is that God's presence and provision enables pastoral leaders to exercise their calling. Pastors and ministry leaders do not draw from their own resources in order to care for God's people. Rather, it is always God's own presence that provides sustenance and encouragement; pastors shepherd God's people by constantly pointing them to their "only source of true delight."

This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. My only wish is that the exegetical reflection had been more systematized into a coherent narrative. I often found the text to be rough-going, sloughing through the biblical details and struggling to keep the bigger themes in mind. In that regard, reading the conclusion first might be a good way to keep the big picture in mind. In addition, Laniak himself suggested skimming sections of material in order to gain the cumulative effect (26-27). That being said, for the pastor who is willing to wade in, he will find a great deal of wisdom and insight for understanding the pastoral task.

Wednesday, May 2nd 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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