Review of Letters to a Young Pastor

Those aspiring to professional ministry have an amazing feat awaiting them.  Any young minister who gets a copy of this book will have been given a treasure.  My review is enclosed. (Also has been posted at Reader Views...).

Happy Friday!
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Letters to a Young Pastor
Calvin Miller
David C. Cook
4050 Lee Vance View
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
(800) 708-5550,
Reviewed by Steven King

Those aspiring to professional ministry have the same dreams as individuals entering various careers. After sufficient academic preparation, each young minister has an idealistic view of the world and enters his first parish hopeful that he will translate biblical realities to an eager congregation.  Idealism fades to black rather quickly, however, when this same minister realizes that ministry can be arduous work.  Parishioners complain frequently, there never seems to be enough time, and there is always one more meeting to attend.  For some, the path of least resistance is to leave the ministry and seek their “calling” somewhere else.

Most vocations do not live up the expectations placed upon them: there is always the difficult co-worker, implacable boss, or maniacal workload that drains vitality. In desperate times, it is as refreshing as a cold glass of water on an arid summer day to know that someone—anyone—understands the struggles you are facing.

Calvin Miller, seminary professor and prolific writer, understands the foibles of ministry.  Opting to share twenty-five years worth of experience in a very personal manner, Miller has written a collection of letters to a young minister which he has placed into one of five categories:
  • Letters on Locating Your Life
  • Growing a Large Worldview on a Shrinking Planet
  • Never Cast a Vision in an Empty Sanctuary
  • Sermons: Great Introductions and Conclusions Kept as Close Together as Possible
  • Come into my Heart, Lord Jesus…please
On those days when the young pastor feels that he is ready to call it quits, instead he can turn to Miller’s letter: Never Resign till Tuesday, and receive motivation to continue at least through the rest of the weekend.

In an attempt to undercut the implied acceptance of interpretive plurality that exists in the emergent movement, Miller reminds pastors that the clarion call of ministry is clearly specified in Jude 3.  In this passage the author tells his readers, “Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”(NET Bible). The faith that was entrusted to the saints buffets the modern emphasis of an emergent theology and reminds all of the primacy of Scripture to the minister’s work. In those moments where either the work of the ministry or modernist tendencies would encroach on this reality, pastors should remember, “Biblical exposition is the work of the kingdom.”

As I read this collection of letters, I was impressed by Miller’s transparency as he wrote of personal struggles in ministry. His writing is grittily earthy and is underscored by quick-wittedness and sardonic sarcasm.  In many places, I laughed out loud at the illustration he was making, but in each case, the truth behind the banter was spot on.

As a master teacher, Miller incorporates practical recommendations for those in ministry: including how to avoid impropriety with the opposite sex; staying connected with the Arts; and what to do when you just cannot seem to find Christ on any given day.

After a few decades of professional ministry, Miller noticed that the vocation has changed quite a bit.  However, in the ecclesiastical pursuit two things always remained constant: God is love, and people are broken.  Anyone who has accepted the call to minister soon realizes that the latter makes you quickly forget the former. 

In the midst of troubling times, Letters to a Young Pastor, provides insight and motivation to pull through.


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