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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
Pastor to Pastor

The Art of Arts

And we are the artists.

Shepherding God’s Flock (1)

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 1 Timothy 3.1

As Columbanus’ ministry in Gaul began to flourish, the local parish priests became concerned. Their young people were flocking to the monasteries of Columbanus to study and learn the Scriptures, join in the work of the Kingdom, and seek a calling from God.

Which they’d never done under the slack eyes and limp hands of those parish priests. The priests’ solution was to call Columbanus to a synod, where they intended to shut him up and send him packing.

Columbanus declined to attend. Instead, he wrote their boss in Rome, Pope Gregory the Great, calling on him to deal with these worthless shepherds and help the churches get back on their feet.

Why did he write to Gregory? Because Columbanus had read Gregory’s treatise on shepherding, agreed with it wholeheartedly, and hoped that Gregory might be able to apply its teaching to the woeful conditions of priests and parishes in Gaul.

Columbanus hoped that Gregory would restore “the arts of arts” to the churches, as he had written in his Book of Pastoral Rule[1]:“No one presumes to teach an art till he has first, with intent meditation, learnt it. What rashness is it, then, for the unskilful (sic) to assume pastoral authority, since the government of souls is the art of arts! For who can be ignorant that the sores of the thoughts of men are more occult than the sores of the bowels? And yet how often do men who have no knowledge whatever of spiritual precepts fearlessly profess themselves physicians of the heart, though those who are ignorant of the effects of drugs blush to appear as physicians of the flesh!”

Because caring for the souls of God’s people is a noble task – the art of arts – a pastor should at all times make certain that, in his own soul, he is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18). So also in every aspect of the life of faith to which we expect to exhort our hearers: Shepherds must lead their flocks to fullness of life in Christ not by our words only, but by our lives as well, through the work of shepherding to which God has called us.

A recovery of shepherding was the great need of the churches in Columbanus’ day. It is in our day as well.

Resources for Shepherds
For a more detailed study of the work of shepherding, order a free copy of our workbook, Shepherding God’s Flock, by clicking here. In this study we follow the teaching of Scripture and our Lord Jesus about what it means to be a shepherd and how we ought to carry out this important work. The book is ideal for individual or group study.

To receive an overview of the work of shepherding – and the contents of our workbook – watch this brief video.

Preaching is an important part of the work of a shepherd, but just because we stand behind a pulpit and spout spiritual words at people doesn’t mean we’re preaching. Well, it didn’t mean that for William Cowper, at any rate. The great poet and hymn-writer took issue with the preaching of his day in his lengthy poem, The Task. We have excerpted Cowper’s observations and concerns and woven them into a lengthy Essay on Preaching. You can order a free copy by clicking here.

From the Celtic Revival
Here’s a preview of Thursday’s Crosfigell study in a series entitled “A Celtic Christian Worldview”. The series unpacks the teaching of a remarkable but anonymous 7th-century text entitled The Book of the Order of Creatures:

“Holy Scripture is understood by three methods of approach. The first way of reading it is when it is understood only literally, without any figurative purpose, as St. Jerome says, ‘The Acts of the Apostles seem to me to speak of plain history.’ The second way is when it is investigated following a figurative understanding without any regard for actual events, as with the first and final parts of Ezekiel. The third way is when, retaining the record of historical events, it is understood with a mystical meaning, for instance Noah’s ark, the tabernacle and the temple were actually built, and through them are traced with the understanding the mysteries of the church. So too paradise, the place of the first Adam, which is the form of the one to come, undoubtedly did exist and prefigured the mysteries of the church to come, which is the homeland of the second Adam.”

  - The Book of the Order of Creatures X.6, 7[2]

You can read more in this series and discover the earnest and Biblical way Celtic Christians understood the world.

Crosfigell is mailed every Tuesday and Thursday. Subscribe to Crosfigell today (click here to update your subscriptions). Be sure you click each teaching letter you want to receive, (including Pastor to Pastor), and follow us through our devotional study of this remarkable document.

Check out our Celtic Legacy podcast and the other resources available on our dedicated Celtic Revival home page.

If you’d like to explore a 28-day sampler of our Crosfigell teaching letter, order a copy of our devotional guide, Be Thou My Vision. In it you’ll find excerpts from writings of the period of the Celtic Revival, together with Scripture and meditations to help you grow in your vision of Christ, exalted in glory. Order your free copy of Be Thou My Vision by clicking here.

T. M. Moore.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1]All quotations are from Gregory, The Book of Pastoral Rule in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 12 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1895, 1995).


[2] Davies, pp. 17, 18

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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