Being a Pastor

Pastoral Treatises of John Wycliffe

Translated and Edited by Benjamin L. Fischer


Published April 8, 2021.

About this book

Pastors must return to the Lord Jesus.

John Wycliffe (c.1320-1384) has long been famed for his role in translating the Bible into English in Medieval England. Yet he was also a learned theologian and faithful priest. Faced with an unstable political and social order, a financially and sexually corrupt Church, and the Plague, Wycliffe upheld the ultimate authority of the Word of God and attacked the Church’s many evils.

These pastoral treatises, newly translated into modern English, were originally written in the vernacular, a key means of reaching poorly educated priests who had been hastily ordained to replace those killed off by the Plague. Wycliffe argues that the Church and her ministers must return to their first love: the Lord Jesus.

In calling pastors in his own day to better tend their flocks by preaching the Scriptures, living simply, and working diligently for the good of their parishioners, Wycliffe speaks just as effectively to our time. Wracked by Plague, beset by social and political upheaval, and faced with corruption in our churches, we are more similar to Wycliffe’s audience than we might suppose. Like his original audience, we need Wycliffe’s message: our life in this world is a pilgrimage, and our destination is the celestial city, there to dwell forever with our Lord.

Paperback | 130 pages | 6×9 | Published April 8, 2021 | ISBN 978-1949716054

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From The Book

“THERE are two offices responsible for purging the church of iniquity. The first office falls to the king, knights, and other lords, who should use force to defend the law of Christ within its bounds. They derive their lordship and hold this service from Christ; therefore, they should be wary that they do not transgress in their responsibility to this Lord. For, if they abdicate their service through inattention or through sloth, God will not forget this trespass but will punish it in his time. Through God’s chastisements, authorities are changed, at one time increasing and another time destroyed. 

The other office for purging the church falls to the priests, whom Christ has ordained to widely proclaim his law to lords and commoners, to guide them in what they should do and to stand for God’s law even to death if need be. In this way, these Christian knights fight by means of patience and suffering. And thus, the purpose of this treatise is to explain briefly about this office of a spiritual shepherd.”

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Introduction – Benjamin L. Fischer


On the Pastoral Office (De Officio Pastorali, 1377)


The Role of a Pastor, and Its Undoing


The Pretensions of the Contemplative Life


A Short Rule of Life Circulated by the Wycliffite Preachers


Select Bibliography

About the Editor

Benjamin L. Fischer (PhD University of Notre Dame) is a missionary priest of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. He serves as Rector of Christ the Redeemer (ACNA) in Nampa, Idaho, and Associate Professor at Northwest Nazarene University, where he teaches literary history.

Praise for this work

I’m delighted to see these pastoral works of the great fourteenth century reformer in modern English. John Wyclif was a man of his times, and those times were many years ago. But the primary issues he wrestled with, such as sexual immorality in the church, worldly managerial clergy, and how to defund false teaching, are perennial ones. His solution — a radical focus on God’s unerring word instead of human authorities or religious entertainment — is also universally applicable. From centuries ago, Wyclif now casts his prophetic eye over the contemporary church thanks to this new edition.

– Dr Lee Gattis

Director of Church Society and a Lecturer in church history at Union School of Theology (UK).

While John Wycliffe is often hailed by modern Protestants as a champion of Bible translation and a forerunner of the Reformation, he is less frequently appreciated as a significant theologian and pastor in his own right, a neglect which surely stems, in part, from the relative inaccessibility of his works. This volume thus represents a welcome course correction, for here, finely rendered in clear, modern English, we have a collection of pastoral writings that will communicate Wycliffe’s vision of a biblically-rooted, faithful, Christian ministry to a twenty-first century Church that is badly in need of it.

– Matthew bingham

Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Church History, Oak Hill College

It would be hard to overstate the importance of John Wycliffe’s reflections on pastoral ministry. His insights on the shepherd’s calling, qualifications, character, challenges, unique temptations, biblical orientation, preaching, and disciplines are a refreshing stream in today’s consumerist desert. If you have grown parched by reading too many pastoral techniques du jour, this volume will quench your thirst.

– cHRIS cASTALDO, ph.d.

 Lead Pastor of New Covenant Church, Naperville, and author of Justified in Christ. 

The republication of John Wycliffe’s Pastoral Treatises comes at a crucial time for the church. Many pastors are intellectually and emotionally exhausted from exposure to books and seminars that focus on church growth and strategies for this and that cause. Wycliffe takes us deeper down into the depths of Scripture and further into the presence of God. The result is a beautiful book, a delightful vision, and a realistic approach to the care of souls. Here is a book to make your pastor’s heart sing.


Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church

In translating these ‘pastoral’ tracts of John Wycliffe into accessible, contemporary prose, with scholarly care and theological insight, Benjamin Fischer has made the core theological concerns of this audacious late medieval reformer accessible to a wide readership. These tracts open a window on Wycliffe’s thought regarding the interpretation of Scripture, the relation of Gospel and law, the moral life of discipleship, and the responsibility of all the faithful to seek ’the mind of Christ’ in God’s written word.  Aided by Fischer’s historical introduction, readers will acquire a fresh appreciation of Wycliffe’s relatively neglected role in transmitting Augustinian theology to later generations of church reformers.


Author of Theology of Law and Authority in the English Reformation


The Davenant Institute endeavors to restore wisdom for the contemporary church. We seek to sponsor historical scholarship at the intersection of the church and academy, build friendships and facilitate collaboration within the Reformed and evangelical world, and equip the saints with time-tested resources for faithful public witness. Below are some of the works we’ve published towards that end.

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