William Still’s “The Work of the Pastor”

William Still was the pastor for many years ( in Gilcomston South Church in Aberdeen, Scotland. His pastoral theology is contained in “The Work of the Pastor”, which was first published in 1984. Here’s a selection of some good quotes from the first few chapters:

“It is to feed sheep on such truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organisation [sic], miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christians drugs or stimulants, the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God.” (23)

“The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness.” (23)

“To be a pastor of the sheep, a feeder of the Word to others, you must be fed yourself.” (24)

“To be true pastors, your whole life must be spent in knowing the truth of this Word, not only verbally, propositionally, but religiously, that is, devotionally, morally, in worshiping Him whom it reveals, and in personal obedience to Him whose command it contains, in all the promised grace and threat of those commands. To be pastors you must be “fed men,” not only in knowledge, but in wisdom, grace, humility, courage, fear of God, and fearlessness of man.” (24)

“I have little hope of anyone learning categorically, decisively, from me unless he or she is prepared to sit consistently, almost exclusively, for years under the ministry of the Word of God: thereafter, he or she will spend their whole life digesting it.” (25)

“Eat it, eat it whole. All or nothing. For it is only ‘all or nothing’ devourers of the Word of God who will ever be or do anything for God.” (25)

“There is, of course, only one Teacher, the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16, 17, 26; 16:7-15). And if the Holy Spirit is not in our hearts, in our life and in all our teaching of the Word of God (and He will not be if our characters are not being moulded according to the moral and spiritual pattern of the Word), then we had better not open our mouths. For there is nothing so boring, stale, flat and unprofitable as holy things retailed in the absence of the Spirit.” (26)

” . . . when you are sure of your calling as pastors and teachers, then you must be wholly geared to that life. This involves, first, the building up of your own faith by feeding on the Word of God; then obeying it; so that you may make your sole task in life to teach the whole Word of God to your flock. The whole Word: this is pastoral work. Take Paul’s example in Ephesus (Acts 20:24-32). We are not called to make a crowd of worldly folk happy—even worldly evangelistic folk happy—but so to labor amongst them that, through many tribulations, discouragements and misunderstandings, we form a faithful people of God, however small a remnant of the total congregation that may be.” (28)

“The pastor must know Christ, really know Him, and live his life as sifted by His all-searching holiness all the time. This is the only way to produce any fruit, to say nothing of any satisfaction, nor indeed any fun in his life.” (31)

“You must know that God has called you with a heavenly compulsion, whether you want it or not, to be an evangelist, pastor and teacher of His Word.” (32)

“You must find out His will for your life, and His place for you, and obey the fiery cloud.” (32)

” . . . having been called or appointed to minister to a local congregation, begin to minister the Word of god to them at once, depending for all your worth on the Holy Spirit, and believing that this is the biggest thing that you can do for them in all the world. This is your life: not a part of it, but your life. Other things come in, of course, but this is your life, the most thrilling life anyone can live on earth, to expose a group of people, Christian or not, to the all-searching eye of the Word of God.” (32)

“As you begin, let the people know that your ministry of the Word is going to be soaked in prayer; your own, and that of those who will join you. Set a time for prayer, but do not say there will be prayer if anyone comes, but rather that you will be there to pray at such-and-such an hour and that you will be glad to join with any who come.” (32-33)

“He will work, slowly as it may seem at first. Your quiet persistence—this charge, or parish, or living is not a mere stepping stone to a better appointment: God has caused you to become pastor to some souls here who are as valuable to Him as any in the world—your quiet persistence will be a sign that you believe God has a purpose of grace for this people, and that this purpose of grace will be promoted not by gimmicks, or stunts, or new ideas, but by the Word of God released in preaching by prayer.” (33)

“In this work we must not be afraid of upset. We must not go out of our way to create it; we don’t look for trouble, but seek peace. But if we are going to be faithful to God and to men, there will be upset. The great thing to know is that God is at work creatively, through His Word, in answer to the prayers of His people. There is not a greater task a man can perform in the whole world than this, that he is being used to release the all-searching Word of God upon a company of needy souls. It is the most amazing thing. It works! God works. His Word works. Prayer works. The Spirit works.” (35)

“The greatest failure is that you fail to minister the Word of God in any effectiveness or fullness to the people.” (35)

“You will have to go down into a new death every time you bring forth God’s living Word to the people (2 Cor 4:12). You will have to die, not only to your own sin, but to self in many of its most seemingly innocent and legitimate aspects. Only then can the death and resurrection power of Jesus Christ be communicated to men, and we dare not do less for any people than this. If we do less, we will have to answer to God one day.” (36)








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