Letters to a Young Pastor
The first rule of pastoral preparation should be that you don't get to pastor until you've apprenticed under a godly, seasoned pastor. I'd bend the rule occasionally for special cases like Spurgeon, but the rule would apply to the rest of us. And my second rule would be that you have to read a curmudgeon or two. I recommend Carl Trueman. But I think Calvin Miller might be up to the job as well.
In Letters to a Young Pastor, Calvin Miller shares from decades of pastoral ministry on almost every topic possible. I love it. I don't agree with everything he says, but I sense that he wrote more than a few sentences in this book with his tongue firmly in his cheek.
Miller is so out of step with contemporary Christianity that he's willing to call the emperor naked. He's played many of the games that young pastors play, and he's no longer interested. He's brutally honest, even when it rubs against the evangelical grain.
Here are some samples.
- On being a pastor and a father: "If the church suddenly came up with a critical meeting on circus night, I'd go to the circus."
- On ministry in a megachurch world: "One of our chief sins is that we school our students in the works of preachers with large churches and then brutally send them into the world of small churches where they remain until retirement."
- On theological mushiness: "The world is looking for answers. If you have some of them, for goodness' sake spit 'em out. The world is looking for servants of God whose yes is yes. How elementary, how refreshing."
- On hell: "I confess I miss hell … a lot! What Jesus saved us from is no longer perfectly clear."
- On the mission of the church: "What does your church offer that's missing at the YMCA? … When you read your church's bulletin and determine the invitation you offer, you will know whether your church is a community center or the globalizing, wounded arm of the Savior."
- On pastoring small churches: "Trust no theology that doesn't work where the crowd is small and the pay is inadequate … If your church is small, it will likely more approximate the ministry of St. Paul than Dr. Megachurch."
- On church business meetings: "Baptist business meetings were my nemesis for all thirty-five years of parish life. I have always lived in fear of them and have always despised those five little words from hell: 'Is there any new business?'"
I have to confess that Miller almost lost me in the introduction when he said, "I led only a couple of people a week to Christ. Anybody can do that." Over 25 years, that led to 2,800 people. But I'm glad I kept reading.
Miller is out of sync with some of what's wrong with me and with the church, and that is one of his greatest gifts. There is no substitute for training under a seasoned pastor, but reading one will do in a pinch. This book is good for young pastors - and middle-aged ones too.
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