by Keith Bassham
The Minister’s Instruction Manual
By Mel Brown
Published by Guidance House Publishing
308 pages – $29.95
I was so happy to receive W. A. Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors not many years after I began my pastoral ministry, and I do not hesitate to consult it even today. But you need more than one book on the pastoral theology shelf, and a valuable addition to your collection should be The Minister’s Instruction Manual by Pastor Mel Brown of Edgewood Baptist Church in Rock Island, Illinois.
First, you need to know something about the author and reasoning behind the manual. Brown has served the Edgewood church more than 40 years. His education includes Purdue University, Evangel College (B.A.), Baptist Bible College (B.Th.), Western Illinois University (M.S.), and Northern Illinois University (Ed.D.) His graduate study was primarily in the field of clinical psychology and counseling.
As a pastor, Mel Brown has been particularly effective in training missionary and pastoral interns, and the manual he has produced is an outgrowth of that experience. He says that though the young men and women who came to the church were adequately prepared theologically, he wanted to give them in two years’ time the benefit of his insight, wisdom, and practical experience. The entire description of the training is part of the manual (that form alone is a valuable piece of information), and it forms the basis of the book.
The contents fill a little over 300 pages (it is 8.5 by 11 and appears to be a workbook), and it is indexed. Roughly the first half deals with personal preparation, spiritual, moral, and psychological, of course, but Pastor Brown quickly gets into practical issues of leadership, communication, and decision-making. Several charts illustrate his instruction, and there are frequent checklists and guidelines included to summarize the main points. The text is no-nonsense, with few non sequiturs to distract. Had the subject matter been fully expanded, the book would have easily run into a 1,000 pages or more, but what you have here is marrow, the essence, around which you can gather more volumes to fully cover the subject of preaching, for instance, for which Brown reserves eight pages, with an additional two pages on funerals and five on teaching. However, where would you find a list of about 40 sermon topics required (not merely suggested) of interns over the course of their training, including sermons detailing their personal testimonies, call to the ministry, Baptist distinctives, etc. And, as is the case in each section, Brown includes a sermon preparation checklist and a number of direct Bible citations having to do with the subject, before moving on.
After the sections on personal preparation and the duties of a pastor (by the way, there is some good instruction on how to conduct a business meeting — how many of us learned these things the hard way?), Pastor Brown has material about the ministries of the church. He makes general reference to Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven model, describes how ministry teams work, and gives details for a workable outreach program based both on personal evangelism and more general evangelistic enterprises. I was surprised there was not more material on missions (there is a helpful section in the Pastor’s Duties section on raising missionary support) given Edgewood’s outstanding missionary program, but the subject probably would need a complete section or perhaps even another manual to do it well. Two other aspects of the Church section get my notice. There is a two-page outline on the subject of worship. The individual topics are brief but informative, almost in a talking-point format. The other noted section is the one on youth and children’s ministry, subjects often ignored in general pastoral training books. Some may be put off by references to secular psychological theories, but I think we can trust Pastor Brown to deal with these things in a balanced and scriptural fashion. Again, those sections end with numerous Bible citations for scriptural principles.
The last section is a collection of appendices — forms for weddings, facility use, and worship service planning, outlines of anticipated problems and suggested solutions, and a longer section on dealing with suffering. I’m not sure why that was placed as an appendix, but it is good, and especially valuable I think for a younger person just entering ministry.
Naturally, any book of this nature will have its faults, and as an editor and preacher myself, I could suggest a number of improvements. However, this volume fills a need for a programmed manual that will (1) give a pastor guidance for himself, (2) help a pastor train a young minister, (3) serve as a basic how-to reference, and (4) provide a pastoral guide suited by design for Baptist Bible Fellowship churches.
More information, sample excerpts, and the manual itself are available at http://ministersinstructionmanual.com.