Martin, Albert. The Man of God: His Calling and Godly Life. Pastoral Theology Series, vol. 1. Montville, NJ: Trinity Pulpit Press, 2018. 520 pages. $28.50.
Al Martin served as a preaching pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in New Jersey for 46 years. He was also instrumental in founding a church-based pastoral training center called the Trinity Ministerial Academy. His influence expanded even further through Trinity’s Pulpit Tape Ministry which circulated his lectures around the world. So, when I heard that Martin’s lectures on pastoral theology were being published in three volumes, I knew that these would likely become essential reading for anyone aspiring to the office of pastor.
Volume one of the series expounds the fundamentals of pastoral ministry in two parts: the call of a man of God, and the life of the man of God. Part one goes through the aspiration of pastoral ministry, the qualifications of a pastor, the spiritual gifts and their relation to pastoral calling, and ordination to pastoral office. Part two, with laser-like precision, examines what the life of a pastor ought to be. This includes how a man of God ought to relate to God spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. He also explores how a man of God ought to relate to his people, himself, his time, his work, and his home.
One of the clear strengths of Martin’s work is its thoroughness. For example, he spends 5 chapters (over 100 pages) examining the qualifications for pastoral candidates found in 1 Timothy 3 and related New Testament passages. Each individual qualification is explained exegetically, defined precisely, expounded thoroughly, and applied practically. Readers are given a comprehensive picture of all the ways that a minister ought to strive for excellence.
This rigorous examination of the qualifications and all of their applications can also serve as a potential weakness of this volume. These chapters can quite easily paint a picture of pastoral qualifications and rigor that are so high, so precisely-defined, that no fallen man could ever achieve. As one example, Martin comments regarding physical discipline: “The fact is that you cannot preach with conscience-gripping power…when your paunch is hanging over the pulpit, and jiggling jowls declare your lack of discipline” (84). I know that his aim was certainly not to feel like law, and it probably was not the effect when he originally gave these lectures. However, it’s easy to see how such a rigorous examination of a man’s life can promote an overly-rigid, unhelpfully-legal interpretation of the pastoral qualifications.
Another strength of this volume is Martin’s abundantly-evident knowledge of the relevant reformed pastoral literature. Indeed, in many ways this is one of the best features of his work: Martin’s lectures are, at times, a compendium of some of the best quotes and citations from the leading works of pastoral theology produced since the protestant reformation. He frequently cites Charles Spurgeon, Charles Bridges, Richard Baxter, John Owen, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Patrick Fairbairn, among many others. This volume serves as a great introduction to many classic works of pastoral theology.
However, his survey of and interaction with the relevant literature did expose a glaring omission: he doesn’t reference a single theologian before the protestant reformation (excluding a single mention of Augustine, which is found within a Richard Baxter quotation). It seems hard to imagine that Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule, Chrysostom’s On the Priesthood, Cyprian’s On the Church, or Ambrose’s Duties of Leaders have nothing to contribute to Martin’s pastoral theology, especially when such pre-reformation figures were formative for so many of the men that Martin does cite. It is the opinion of this reviewer that the first 1500 years of the church did contain faithful pastors, did produce valuable works of pastoral theology, and is worthy of consultation in such a thorough and compendium-like work of pastoral theology.
Martin’s first volume in his series is a valuable contribution to the field of pastoral theology. He is comprehensive in his biblical analysis and application, and well versed in the literature of reformed pastoral theologians. I suspect that this contribution to the field will be useful to aspiring pastors for generations to come.
**This review was originally published in the Bulletin of Ecclesial Theology 6.2.