Pastor Paul

Nurturing a Culture of Christoformity in the Church

series: Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic

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Being a pastor is a complicated calling. Pastors are often pulled in multiple directions and must "become all things to all people" (1 Cor. 9:22). What does the New Testament say (or not say) about the pastoral calling? And what can we learn about it from the apostle Paul?

According to popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, pastoring must begin first and foremost with spiritual formation, which plays a vital role in the life and ministry of the pastor. As leaders, pastors both create and nurture culture in a church. The biblical vision for that culture is Christoformity, or Christlikeness. Grounding pastoral ministry in the pastoral praxis of the apostle Paul, McKnight shows that nurturing Christoformity was at the heart of the Pauline mission. The pastor's central calling, then, is to mediate Christ in everything. McKnight explores seven dimensions that illustrate this concept--friendship, siblings, generosity, storytelling, witness, subverting the world, and wisdom--as he calls pastors to be conformed to Christ and to nurture a culture of Christoformity in their churches.

1. Pastors as Culture Makers
2. A Culture of Friendship
3. A Culture of Siblings
4. A Culture of Generosity
5. A Culture of Storytellers
6. A Culture of Witness
7. A Culture of World Subversion
8. A Culture of Wisdom
Final Thoughts: Nurturing Christoformity


"Scot McKnight has always been one of my favorite writers and theologians because he writes with a deep love for and understanding of the local church. His new book, Pastor Paul, helps us discover the heart of Paul as a pastor and then apply that same heart to the postmodern setting of the church in North America. His description of pastors as culture makers is one that leaders of the church need to grasp for the church to thrive in current and future realities. Buy this book. Keep it in your back pocket to refer to often. The new realities Scot describes aren't going to be changing anytime soon."

Mike Glenn, senior pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tennessee

"As I read this abundantly rich exploration of what we learn from Paul as a pastor, I cannot help but imagine what our communities of faith would be like if we were led by pastors like Paul. Scot McKnight has given us a tremendous gift, distilling the role of a pastor to its raw essential: forming Christ in the people we have the privilege to lead."

Nancy Beach, leadership coach, Slingshot Group; author of Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church

"During my doctoral cohort led by Scot, he talked about writing this book. As he shared insights and the vision for it, I immediately began to think about how I as a pastor would be spiritually formed, encouraged, and strengthened by it to shepherd God's people. This book is a gift to pastors. I highly recommend it."

Derwin L. Gray, lead pastor, Transformation Church; author of The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World

"Scot McKnight has captured a key aspect of pushing back against the rampant idol of individualism in our culture and in the church. Scot reminds us that 'Paul's theology of ministry was for churches, and therefore individuals, to be nurtured into Christoformity' (the pattern of Jesus's life). Writing to only individuals is the downside of too many books on spiritual formation today. I highly recommend this book for students, pastors, and congregations wanting to learn from Pastor Paul."

Rose Madrid Swetman, regional leader, Vineyard USA, Northwest Region

"When it comes to the pastorate, there is no more scholarly and trusted voice for me than Scot McKnight. With the intellect of a man devoted to theology, with a heart shaped by Christ's love, and with a lifetime of insight, Scot reclaims the true nature of what it means to shepherd God's people. Rather than chasing the intoxicating fruit of larger churches, book deals, and conference speaking, Scot rightly helps those in ministry to return to ministry in the light of the apostle Paul. This is a needed book in a time when more and more of us know less and less of what it is to center on Christ in a pastorate increasingly shaped by business-styled 'leadership.'"

Sean Palmer, author of Unarmed Empire: In Search of Beloved Community, preaching coach, and teaching pastor at Ecclesia Houston

"With careful exegesis of Paul's world, Paul's letters, and our own world, Scot McKnight shows how pastoral ministry in the spirit of Paul is focused on nurturing a culture of corporate Christlikeness. Full of wisdom concerning critical aspects of both Pauline and contemporary pastoral ministry, this is a book that will help form more faithful ministers of the gospel and, through them, more faithful churches."

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary's Seminary & University, Baltimore

"This book contains a wealth of treasures for anyone who is currently pastoring, who has been pastoring for years, or who is beginning to sense a call to pastor. It is full of biblical and theological insights from the life and writings of Paul, as well as McKnight's own astute observations on the pastor's life. McKnight's ability to mine the Scriptures to bring inspiration, wisdom, and a Christoform framework to the work of a pastor is profound. Most striking is that the vision he presents for pastors feels attainable. So at its heart this book is deeply encouraging. I highly recommend this."

Lucy Peppiatt, principal, Westminster Theological Centre, United Kingdom

"Too often we have split teachings of and narratives about Paul between his high theology and his pastoral practicality. In his new book, Pastor Paul, Scot McKnight shows how the major theological themes form the contours of pastoral ministry. At the core is the mandate and possibility of leading people into Christlikeness. In an age when pastoral ministry is often pragmatic without principle, this is a welcome corrective. Creating a 'culture of Christoformity,' as McKnight puts it, should be a liberating and encouraging focal point for anyone trudging along in pastoral ministry today."

Mel Lawrenz, minister at large, Elmbrook Church, Brookfield, Wisconsin

The Author

  1. Scot McKnight
    Marcus Emerson

    Scot McKnight

    Scot McKnight (PhD, University of Nottingham), a world-renowned scholar, writer, and speaker, is a visiting professor at Houston Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Centre, United Kingdom. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of more than...

    Continue reading about Scot McKnight


"In this wise work, New Testament scholar McKnight (The Jesus Creed) uses the ministry of Paul to guide pastors in their vocation. With deep affection for a pastor's 'complicated calling,' McKnight explains how pastors are nurturers of 'Christoformity,' meaning that they are meant to conform to the principles and disposition of Christ. . . . While McKnight holds up Paul as a lodestar for living faithfully, he also criticizes some of Paul's choices, such as his rift with Barnabas and John Mark. . . . McKnight frequently digs into the Hebrew or Greek of the Bible to better expose the true meaning and context of passages, but his tone remains conversational throughout. Though best suited for those in the pastorate, general Christian readers will relish McKnight's insightful exploration of Paul's letters."

Publishers Weekly