Pastoral Ministry in the Real World: Loving, Teaching, and Leading God's People

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6 x 9
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About the Author: 
Jim L. Wilson

Jim L. Wilson (D.Min, Golden Gate Theological Seminary) is a former pastor and is now professor of Leadership Formation and the director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Golden Gate. He is an award-winning writer who has authored, co-authored or contributed to more than a dozen books. His sermons and sermon illustrations appear in WordSearch and Logos Bible software programs and on his website

Foreword by Jim Henry

About the Book

Though Scripture is timeless and unchanging, the world in which pastors must minister is never the same. Pastoral Ministry in the Real World applies the enduring truths of the Bible to the pastor’s work in messy situations where the old categories no longer apply and typical responses are not always effective.

Wilson presents the nature of pastoral ministry by exploring its three major functions: loving, teaching, and leading God’s people. In the course of his wise exposition he does not avoid addressing the hard questions head on. What are the disqualifiers for the pastoral ministry? How should Bible-believing pastors minister in a culture that has embraced same-sex marriage? How can pastors help others without hurting themselves? How can pastors teach during seasons of conflict and lead the church during anxious times?  How can they lead a church to change without destroying the church’s personality or their own spiritual health?

“This book is the carefully constructed work, not of a thesis, but the expressions of a lifetime sketched from the frontlines of congregation and classroom,” writes Jim Henry in the foreword. “I add this book as one of the best go-to resources. You will find yourself drinking from this fountain of wise counsel often, dog-earing its pages, and wearing out your Sharpie as you mine the nuggets of ministry gold. I have only one regret after reading this book—I wish I had it fifty years ago!”


  • Grounded in years of experience

  • Provides wise counsel for a demanding vocation

  • Written by former pastor and now professor

  • Advises on how to deal with tough issues, such as conflict, same-sex marriages, etc.


  • Pastors in training

  • Current pastors wanting a refresher


Part 1: Invitation to Pastoral Ministry

Chapter 1: Who Is a Pastor?

Chapter 2: What Is Pastoral Ministry?

Part 2: Loving God’s People

Chapter 3: Caring for the Hurting

Chapter 4: Ministry to Hurtful People

Chapter 5: Helping Others without Hurting Yourself

Chapter 6: Celebrate!

Part 3: Teaching God’s People

Chapter 7:  High Impact Teaching and Preaching

Chapter 8: Teaching While Walking Around

Chapter 9: Teaching in Conflict Situations

Part 4: Leading God’s People

Chapter 10: Leading During Seasons of High Conflict

Chapter 11: Leading Using a Systems Approach

Chapter 12: Leading the Church to Change

Chapter 13: Leading as a Powerful Servant Leader

Appendix: 1-Point Sermons

Subject Index

Scripture Index


“This excellent guidebook is a winning combination of careful research, personal ministry experience, biblical insight, and a broad understanding of how people are thinking in today’s world. I have read most of the classic manuals on pastoral work and written a few of my own, but Pastoral Ministry in the Real World has elements that are superior to them all. You will especially appreciate the section on Christ’s handling of the conflicts He encountered.”

—Warren W. Wiersbe, author and former pastor, Moody Church, Chicago

“Being a pastor is hard work—it’s a maze of urgent and sometimes conflicting challenges and opportunities, and young pastors need guides to help them. Dr. Wilson’s book Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is a guidebook for maneuvering that ministry maze, drawn on years of his own pastoral experience. Wilson deals with issues like pastoral care, teaching, and leadership, and he brings practical insights to each. I look forward to using this book with my own students.”

—Michael Duduit, Executive Editor of Preaching magazine; Dean and Professor of Christian Ministry, Clamp Divinity School of Anderson University, Anderson, SC

“In his new work, Pastoral Ministry in the Real World, Dr. Wilson has given us a book that is biblical, thoughtful, and rooted in years of experience. By consistently integrating Scriptural truth with some of the latest insights from psychology, sociology and organizational management, it provides practical help to all those called to shepherd Christ’s church. This is a book I can recommend to any student, new pastor, or seasoned leader in the church world of twentieth-century America.”

—Scott Wenig, Professor of Applied Theology, Denver Seminary  

“The best books derive from hard-won experience on the ground. This is such a book. Jim Wilson is a pastor who knows his way around. The practice of your ministry will be enhanced by the opportunity to reflect on Wilson’s experience. Pastoral ministry requires knowledge, skill, and character. This book offers all three.”

—Kenton C. Anderson, President of Northwest Baptist Seminary; Professor of Homiletics, ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University, Langley, BC

 “Crisp, engaging, and helpful, this volume orients ministry students and pastors to ministry in the real world—its questions, concerns, responsibilities, skills, pains, and privileges. It covers the content well, strikes the right tone, interweaves research with pastoral experience, and is outlined quite clearly. There is much wisdom in this book.”

—Christopher W. Morgan, Dean and Professor of Theology, School of Christian Ministries, California Baptist University, Riverside

“Wilson’s Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is true to its title. That alone would be sufficient reason for recommending the book to anyone training for or already slugging it out in the trenches. But there’s much more. Along with being honest about the difficulties of pastoral ministry, Wilson is biblical, balanced, and full of wise counsel. This is an excellent book for anyone called by God to be a soul-watcher.”

—Randal Pelton, Senior Pastor, Calvary Bible Church, Mount Joy, PA

“Becoming a pastor is an intimidating step into a significant spiritual leadership role. Pastoral Ministry in the Real World paves the way forward by summarizing and explaining, in a down-to-earth fashion, the key roles and responsibilities pastors fulfill. We need more men to answer God’s call to spiritual service as pastors. This book is a helpful guide to those who embark on this lifelong journey.”

—Jeff Iorg, President, Golden Gate Seminary

“Because people are complicated and messy, ministry often feels complicated and messy. Dr. Wilson knows that world, but his knowledge of the soul and skills of pastoring points us to clarity, focusing on loving well, teaching well, and leading well.”

—Marshall Shelley, Editor, Leadership Journal

“Dr. Wilson has written a pastoral ministry book that will help every minister of the gospel to grow on every practical level of ministry from ‘good ministry’ into ‘great ministry.’ I highly recommend that you get a copy of Pastoral Ministry in the Real World for you and everyone sharing ministry with you!”

—Walt Kallestad, Lead Pastor, Community Church of Joy, Glendale, AZ

“As a seminary professor I found it frustrating to find a suitable textbook for my Pastoral Ministry class since there is a real dearth of resources in this area. I am glad to see a book written from an experienced pastor who speaks practically and biblically to this subject. I believe it will be helpful to students who are new to pastoral ministry as well as those who have served for years as pastors. I highly recommend Dr. Wilson’s book!”

—David W. Johnson, Executive Director, Arizona Southern Baptist Convention

“Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is an easy read filled with practical content. Dr. Wilson models an approach of introspection and transparency that all pastors would be wise to follow. It clarified and affirmed my own calling and practice.”

—Tom Jones, President, Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, AR

“In his book Pastoral Ministry in the Real World, Dr. Wilson provides the theoretical principles of ministry through practical advice and real life examples. The book helps pastors understand that they all face similar struggles, and provides the tools to overcome them. Although written in a USA context, its content transcends many cultural boundaries. I hope to see the book translated to Spanish soon.”

—Robert Carter, Rector, Seminario Teologico Bautista Santiago, Chile

“Dr. Jim Wilson has written a brilliant work on the practical aspects of pastoral leadership. From walking well in the midst of pain to leading with courageous conviction, this book is as helpful as they come.”

—Eric Herrstrom, Lead Pastor, Lake Arlington Baptist Church, Lake Arlington, TX

“While there is great joy in serving the living God, serving God's people as a pastor has never been easy.  The rapid rate of cultural change in the twenty-first century has meant that each day seems to surface new issues.  In times like these, it is good that every pastor be reminded that his work is described and detailed in the Scriptures.  From the first to the last, Dr. Wilson’s book is Scripture-saturated and laced with the wisdom of a long-time practitioner.  It addresses every major facet of a pastor's work, with biblical truth and teaching on every page.  Pastors at all stages of life and ministry will benefit from this book.”   

—Randy Adams, Executive Director-Treasurer Northwest Baptist Convention

Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is a good book full of practical wisdom for pastors.  I wish I could have read this book before my first pastorate thirty years ago!”

 —Benny Wong, Senior Pastor First Chinese Baptist Church Los Angeles, CA

“Pastoral ministry is difficult to do well in today’s world. Dr. Wilson’s book Pastoral Ministry in the Real World, lays a solid biblical foundation to guide pastors in building healthy churches.  His honest stories of painful ministry encounters are refreshing and add a needed reality check to idealized pastoral ministry. I appreciated the balance of loving people with the need to lead them in spite of the challenges involved.  I will be recommending this book to aspiring pastors for years to come.”   

—Steve Davidson, Founding Pastor of Clovis Hills Community Church

“Finally, a book that lists practical steps for pastors including bonafide research and illustrative material to help avoid common pitfalls and heartaches that comes with ministry. Pastoral Ministry in the Real World would have saved me so much struggle 30 years ago. This resource is a must read for all of my staff and every young minister that I have the opportunity to mentor.”   

—David Miracle, Lead Pastor, Watershed, San Antonio, TX

“Being the pastor of a local church is not only a great privilege, but also a great responsibility. Dr. Wilson has not only been a pastor, but now as a professor has a desire to help other pastors fulfill their calling. This book is real, down to earth, and can be a great help to not only a new pastor but also a seasoned one. God has used the author, and reading his book will make any pastor better.”

—Rob Zinn, Pastor, Immanuel Baptist, Highland, CA

“Healthy churches are led by healthy ministers. Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is both a learning guide and a field manual for a healthy minister written by one who has mined wisdom from the Scriptures and forged it in the fire that only comes by serving God’s people in the best and worst of times. The author’s use of the systems approach to leading during times of conflict has been useful to me personally and will revolutionize your ability to achieve victory in times when many become a victim. Every person serving in ministry would benefit from reading this book.”

—Randy McWhorter, Healthy Church Group Leader, California Southern Baptist Convention

“Dr. Wilson has shown a bright and refreshing light onto the current ministry scene in a way that will serve every pastor well. Combining practical wisdom with helpful, engaging real-life examples, Wilson calls ministers to excel in the essential tasks of ministry.”

—Bob Royall, Director of Coaching, Blackaby Ministries International

“Thorough and practical, Dr. Wilson’s book describes in a new way what church members need in pastoral care. Because it is well-organized, biblical, and relevant, the book makes a great manual for every pastor or church leader who wants to carry out pastoral care in a compassionate manner. Pastoral Ministry in the Real World is highly recommended as a textbook in seminaries and Bible institutes. I pray that we have it soon in Spanish.”

—Daniel Jiménez, Director, Seminario Teológico Bautista Mexicano