Title: Concerning the True Care of Souls
General Subject Matter: Pastoral Theology
Theme: how the true minister or shepherd of God is to carry out his duty in the care of the flock that God has entrusted him with.
Thesis: ideal of a godly Christian society and the care of Christ’s sheep
Author: Martin Bucer
Publisher: The Banner of Truth Trust
Publisher: The Banner of Truth Trust
Copyright Date: 1538 (2009)
The purpose of this book in Bucer’s own words is “to demonstrate to all the pious children of God, who from their hearts pray for the future kingdom of Christ, our own duty in this so deplorable scattering of the church. The fact that all people have been made by God and are God’s creatures should therefore be reason enough for us to go to them, seeking with the utmost faithfulness to bring them to eternal life…this is why we have undertaken the writing of this little book concerning all these matters, inserting various quotations from the word of God and, insofar as the Lord has given us grace, explaining them. From these every Christian can thoroughly learn what sort of fellowship the church of Christ is, how the Lord alone rules, what ministry he requires in that rule and how this ministry is to be ordered and performed, in relation to all those who are brought to the church of Christ and wish to be kept and built up in it”
Bucer uses explanation, analysis, and exposition of Scripture to demonstrate his ideal of a godly Christian society, and he wrote solely for the Lord’s glory and to explain the improvement of Christ’s church at a time when Christ’s sheep were in his pastoral opinion so deplorably scattered.
Concerning the True Care of Souls is a very interesting book. It was translated from its original language and updated into more modern English in most places and holds the reader’s attention. This book is of utmost importance to the actual pastoral duties and ministry of real godly pastors. Bucer is very thorough in his presentation of both the problems he saw in regards to the overall condition of the church and his solutions and instructions to pastors. As I read this book I completely agreed with Bucer’s opinions and observations on the necessity and methodology of taking care of the precious sheep of God.
Bucer drew much of his observations from the abuses and error of the papacy. Bucer was very much involved with Luther and the reformation in hopes of ending those abuses and restoring the church to her rightful owner, the Lord Jesus Christ. Bucer makes his point clear through various propositions which explain how Christ carries out his “pastoral office” as the chief shepherd over the souls of men and works their salvation out through the office and ministry of biblically ordained pastors. Bucer exegetes various texts which proves that the Lord has and uses in his church the ministry of teaching, spiritual discipline and pastoral ministry for the needs of the body. Bucer goes into great detail to show how true men of God, called Elders are chosen to shepherd or pastor the sheep of Christ. He demonstrates how lost sheep are to be sought after and how straying sheep are to be restored to full fellowship in the body. Bucer even exegetes various scriptures to show how truly called men of God help the hurt and wounded sheep.
I thought Bucer went a little too far as many reformers, such as Calvin, Zwingli, and others who attempted to take the truths and “ideals” of scripture and apply them to society. Bucer wanted to implement church teaching and doctrine on the city of Strasbourg as Calvin did in Geneva. As much as Bucer was a formidable proponent and friend of the reformation, especially in Strasbourg the church is separate (although within) society. I certainly think you can evangelize a community but you cannot Christianize it by applying biblical principles to an unredeemed community.
Having said that however, this book is full of possibilities. Every pastor should read this book. Bucer has tried to be extremely Christ-like and biblical as he approaches the subject of shepherding the sheep of God.
Bucer wrote to magnify God’s glory and to improvement the church at a time when he thought that various shepherds were not doing their duty and Christ’s precious sheep were not being cared for. I believe he made his point, supported it well with scripture, and made a valuable contribution to pastoral theology.