The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership, By Tom Nelson

The Flourishing Pastor

Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership

Made to Flourish Resources

by Tom Nelson
Foreword by Chris Brooks

The Flourishing Pastor
  • Length: 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: December 14, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: A0132
  • ISBN: 9781514001325

*affiliate partner

Christianity Today Book Award—Church and Pastoral Leadership

The Gospel Coalition Book Awards Honorable Mention

Pastoral leadership is in crisis. It's not just that many pastors feel overwhelmed and stressed out; many have lost their way. With the risk of burnout at an all-time high, what pastors need is not just a new leadership strategy, but a new framework for ministry—one that will help them move from survival to flourishing.

In these pages, Tom Nelson looks to the biblical image of the shepherd leader in response to the contemporary context. If pastors are to lead congregations, then they must first learn what it means to be led by the Good Shepherd. Pulling from his years of experience as a lead pastor and president of a nonprofit, Nelson offers pastors and ministry leaders a timely vision for leadership that incorporates in-depth biblical teaching and whole-life discipleship. His wisdom and insight provide a roadmap for ministry resilience and longevity.

"Traditionally there are three parts to the ordained ministry—preaching, pastoring, and leading. In our religious world today, preaching and leading are the most highly valued. But while it is not so visible and attention grabbing, skillful knowledge of and pastoring of the human soul is perhaps the most fundamental of the three. Talented preachers and leaders who are not mature and wise pastors may draw a crowd, but they will not help believers 'grow in grace' (2 Peter 3:18) and Christlikeness in both their private and public lives. Tom Nelson's fine book will help rehabilitate the importance of the work of shepherding in our churches."

Timothy Keller, Redeemer City to City

"I remember the first time I heard Tom speak, the words of a prophet in a winsome spirit, and now this book. The gospel is deeply imbedded in each page, a clarion call to pastors everywhere, asking what is at the heart of their call and exploring the painful reality of what happens to the kingdom when it is not embraced. Coming out of Covid-19 this may be the most important book for you to get your hands on. If we don't rethink the church now, when will we? There is hope in his words and a true north in this book."

Nancy Ortberg, CEO of Transforming the Bay with Christ

"Tom Nelson is the pastor I want to teach me how to flourish in ministry. He reminds us that nothing but intimacy with Jesus can help us recover the lost art of shepherd leadership. I'm grateful that Tom walks what he talks and sets an example for us as we follow Christ."

Collin Hansen, vice president of content and editor in chief of The Gospel Coalition, coauthor of Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ Is Essential

"The Flourishing Pastor overflows with practical wisdom from the frontlines of a pastoral ministry that has been both faithful and innovative. Tom Nelson understands the contemporary cultural challenges of pastoral ministry as well as its timeless woes, from the discouragement of grumpy parishioners to the heady lure of celebrity and the loneliness of leadership. This book makes clear the irreducible foundation of the ministerial vocation: intimacy with God that roots one for integrity and resilience over time. Simultaneously, it coaches pastors in a vital, practical skill: discipling congregants in connecting their work and worship. While unpacking it all, Nelson writes with a pastor's heart, and it's easy to see why he has been a beloved mentor to many a young pastor."

Amy L. Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

"It is no secret that pastoral ministry is in crisis. And into that crisis Tom Nelson has unflinchingly walked with humility and authority to provide just what our weary shepherds need—restoration and guidance: restoration that is deep and comprehensive; guidance that is wise and convicting. Grounded and beautiful, The Flourishing Pastor brings necessary healing and hope not only to pastors but also to those of us in their care."

Curt Thompson, author of The Soul of Shame and Anatomy of the Soul

"Years ago I heard someone say that the best thing a pastor can give to his congregation is his own holiness. Based on that counsel, my go-to prayer for myself and other pastors is, 'Lord, always grant us character that is greater than our giftings and humility that is greater than our influence.' My friend Tom Nelson has written a wonderful field guide for every pastor who shares in this sentiment. If you are a pastor who values not only building a flourishing congregation but also your own flourishing soul, I cannot recommend this book highly enough."

Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and author of Jesus Outside the Lines

"By uncovering the art of shepherd leadership that propelled King David from a vulnerable condition to a flourishing life, Tom Nelson argues that many pastors today have stopped valuing their skillful hands and have focused more on narcissistic distractions. This marvelous book filled with functional adaptations of children's stories and pastoral interactions clarifies the true purpose of the shepherd leader. Tom also reminds us of the vital role of hands in the formation of the heart, which enables pastors to comprehend that the greatest influence of Jesus' apprentices does not rely on grandiose achievements but rather on the condition of their hearts. Begin a new journey carrying Jesus' yoke of apprenticeship as you are enlightened by this timeless book."

Fernando Tamara, pastor of Hispanic ministries at Orange County First Assembly of God and regional development representative for Made to Flourish

"I've been waiting for this book for a long time. Pastor, just read the first chapter alone and you'll realize how much you need to sit, read, and hang out with Tom Nelson."

John Yates II, rector of The Falls Church (1979–2019)

"Some books you read for fun; some books you read to stay current in your field. But how many books have you ever read because it's a matter of life and death? If you're a pastor, that's why you need to read this book—your destiny is hanging in the balance. You may think I'm just being dramatic, but Tom Nelson—with more than three decades of experience as a pastor—shows how the hazards of your occupation are liable to squeeze the life right out of your soul unless you yourself learn to abide in the intimate watchcare of the Great Shepherd. Quite frankly, the stakes couldn't be higher! Now more than ever we need pastors who are thriving, because when pastoral leaders flourish, churches flourish, and when churches flourish, communities flourish. In short, pastoral self-care is mission critical."

Bill Hendricks, executive director for Christian leadership, the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary, and president of the Giftedness Center

"The deepest, truest learning is always over the shoulder and through the heart. In The Flourishing Pastor we are drawn into Tom Nelson's long labor of love—a vocation born of commitments to biblical theology and missional practice that have formed his work as a pastor among a particular people in a particular place, a vision for his congregation and his city. With surprising candor and humility rooted in an honest spirituality that seriously wrestles with the Word and the world together, this is a window into the mind and heart of someone who longs for the reality of an integral life for himself and for all of us. Every pastor I know would be graced by this apprenticeship in print, a book where words become flesh in the life of a good man who is also a good pastor."

Steven Garber, author of The Seamless Life and senior fellow for vocation and the common good with the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust

"With characteristic pastoral wisdom and fidelity to the Scriptures, Tom Nelson offers a rich tapestry of biblically informed encouragement to pastoral leaders of all experience levels. Along the way, Tom also skillfully interacts with current research to bring needed insight to pressing and perennial pastoral concerns. This resource is a valuable addition to the growing assembly of works related to pastoral well-being."

Donald C. Guthrie, professor and director of the PhD educational studies program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"An apt subtitle for Tom Nelson's timely and desperately needed new book, The Flourishing Pastor, could have been What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary. With no hint of hubris, Tom quietly moves into the way of the Good Shepherd, skillfully and wisely guiding fellow clergy to rediscover, refocus, and restore their call to a healthy and effective ordained ministry."

David W. Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith and Work Initiative

"In an age of increasing complexity and ambiguity, Tom Nelson invites his readers to consider an ancient model for leadership. Drawing from a deep well of scriptural insight, trusted voices from the past and present, and his own wealth of pastoral experience, Nelson reveals a pathway that leads to flourishing leadership, both personally and organizationally. Pastoral leaders of the present and future would be wise to heed his words."

Terry Timm, lead pastor of Christ Community Church of the South Hills, Pittsburgh

"Tom Nelson has given pastors and all Christian leaders a diagnostic tool and prescription for effective leadership in this insightful book. His wisdom and years of experience have been distilled to practical steps that will lead those you shepherd to a faith that works not just on Sunday but on those longer days that follow."

C. Jeffrey Wright, CEO of UMI (Urban Ministries, Inc.), Chicago

"Incredibly rich with wisdom and insight, The Flourishing Pastor is for the pastor seeking the guideposts, realities, and markers of a long and faithful ministry. As Tom reminds the reader, 'Our calling is anything but a hundred-yard dash.' Tom provides a navigational guide to anyone desiring to live an integral life before an audience of One, beautifully painting a picture of the Great Invitation and what it means to be yoked to Jesus. Theologically rich and practically informed, The Flourishing Pastor will challenge the reader to adopt a deeper understanding of sabbath rest, physical health, and emotional health. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking a deeper, fuller, and richer understanding of pastoral leadership in the midst of a fractured world."

Jimmy Dodd, founder and CEO of PastorServe, author of Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs

"'When pastors flourish, congregations flourish, and when congregations flourish, communities flourish'—wise counsel from Tom Nelson. But how can a pastor flourish today when the world is changing so fast? You won't find simple solutions to the ever-changing complexities of pastoral ministry here. What you will find is humility and wisdom that come from a lifetime of ministry, as well as some great ideas for your next message. But buy this book for the wisdom."

Chris Dolson, pastor emeritus, Blackhawk Church in Madison, Wisconsin

Read an Excerpt



Part One: The Shepherd
1. A Calling in Crisis
2. Finding Our Way Home
3. The Lord Is My Shepherd

Part Two: Integrity of Heart
4. The Integral Life
5. Apprenticeship with Jesus
6. Pursuing Wholeness

Part Three: Skillful Hands
7. A Faithful Presence
8. Cultivating a Flourishing Culture
9. Connecting Sunday to Monday
10. A New Scorecard
11. Finishing Well

Discussion Guide
Scripture Index


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Tom Nelson

Tom Nelson (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is president of Made to Flourish. He has also served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Kansas City for over thirty years. A council member for The Gospel Coalition, Tom is the author of several books, including Work Matters and The Economics of Neighborly Love.