Modern pastoral ministry faces a crisis of identity. Many today base their understanding of the minister’s role in the church on cultural expectations rather than what the Bible says. In their book Being a Pastor: A Conversation with Andrew Fuller, Michael Haykin, Brian Croft, and Ian Clary encourage pastors and church members to consider the pastoral vision that animated the life of Andrew Fuller, an 18th-century English Baptist minister. Haykin sat down with Southern Seminary Magazine to discuss his latest book and the challenges of pastoral ministry today.

To help address the issues facing modern pastoral ministry, you and your co-authors, Brian Croft and Ian Clary, submit the example of Andrew Fuller and his vision for ministry. So, who is Andrew Fuller?

MH: Andrew Fuller was a pastor in Kettering, England. He was what we would describe today as a pastor-theologian. He ministered at the end of the 18th century when the modern world began emerging.

Fuller had to learn to navigate and to respond to the cultural changes and trends of his time. So in his early career, you actually see this in his choice of mentors. He read heavily from John Owen, a Puritan leader from the 17th century, during his first years as a minister. But over time, it seems he must have realized that Owen was not able to fully answer some of the questions that he was having to deal with, and thus he shifted to reading Jonathan Edwards.

What might we learn from a person like Andrew Fuller about some of the issues facing pastors in the 21st century?

MH: The preaching of the Word of God is prominent in Fuller’s ministry, but preaching is certainly not the only facet of his ministry: the importance of visitation, spending time with your people, and building into their lives. Undergirding all of this is love, love for one’s people. Fuller put into practice what he argued — that a Christian pastor needs to love his people, and to love your people, you need to know them. To know them, you need to spend time with them and be in their lives.

How would Andrew Fuller evaluate the evangelical church today and particularly pastoral ministry today?

MH: I would hope he would recognize some of the concerns that have motivated the book. But he also was deeply concerned with understanding the particular way those in his time needed to hear the gospel, though he did not necessarily articulate the necessity of being in touch with the culture in the way that I would.