Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book Review: The Lutheran Pastor by G. H. Gerberding

O My Soul:

I read The Lutheran Pastor for the first time about 15 years ago. It introduced me to the topic of the care and cure of souls. I do no recommend the book highly, but since Google Books has a full view digital version you may want to skim the book there.

Published in 1902, the author claims the purpose of the book is to provide an American Pastoral Theology to fill a void created since The Evangelical Pastor by the Rev. E. T. Horn had gone out of print. The only English language resources for American Lutheran pastors would otherwise remain a plethora of Reformed resources (page 6).

The purpose of this post is draw out a few positives for the care and cure of souls.

The chapter entitled The Pastor's Private Work stresses the care and cure of souls in all aspects of the pastor's work but is demonstrated most clearly during pastoral visits to individuals. "The pastor is not only the shepherd of the flock as a whole, but also of every individual sheep and lamb in it, and to some extent of everyone that ought to be in it" (p.372-373).

Rev. Gerberding argues that visits are neglected in the Lutheran church for several reasons. Influential theologians, such as "Johann Gerhard and Wilhelm Loehe, did not favor private soul-care unless it were at private confession...There are several reasons for this position among Lutherans. Large parishes in Scaninavia and Germany made it impossible for regular and systematic pastoral work. Another hindering cause is the State Church which tends to make the whole church life official and perfunctory" (377-378).

Rev. Gerberding offers these suggestions for successful visits:

1. You can not learn how to visit from books.

2. Always carry a hopeful heart and avoid a professional smile.

3. Pay close attention to the children.

4. Never allow yourself to be in the way, withdraw at once if you are.

5. Discourage malicious gossiping.

6. Be blunt if you have a special purpose for the visit.

7. Never speak of someone's faults before others.

8. Never give the impression you like something for nothing.

9. Frequent short calls are best.

10. Keep a record of your visits and look over it frequently as a monitor (pages 399-401).

11. Special visits are also important. The list ranges from those in prison and those who are sick, both at home and in the hospital, to new members.

Although written as a corrective to a lack of Lutheran resources in a land dominated by a Reformed pastoral theology, Gerberding is highly influenced by Philipp Jakob Spener's Pia Desideria and therefore pietism is characteristic of his work.

The strength of The Lutheran Pastor is bringing the pastor out of a professional pulpit and developing Scriptural principles that can guide a pastor in the many decisions he needs to make. However, its weakness is the strong pietistic foundation upon which this pastoral theology rests.

Good books are life teachers but this is one book to simply skim.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


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