Are you a young pastor? Just entering Christian ministry? Have fewer than ten years under your belt?
Then you need to read this book.
It is called Letters to a Young Pastor, by Calvin Miller.
I was delightfully surprised to learn that the author, a 74-year-old retired Baptist preacher, was hilarious as well as full of wisdom. Every letter is about seven pages long, so you feel like you are making good progress in this 250 page book. The letters make up five sections, and cover his advice and stories from experience on topics like keeping your life balanced and your spiritual life healthy, not getting tripped up in the most common ministry pitfalls, and things to remember about preaching. Miller encourages his readers to keep hold of their unique calling. He is honest about many things pastors would not usually confess. But that is what makes this book so uplifting: Miller mentors the reader through the pages of the book. He talks with the young pastor about temptations that will come his way and how to deal with the more troublesome people in one’s congregation.
At first, I thought “A Baptist? He won’t have anything to say to a female Wesleyan pastor like me.” But as I read it, I found that I had a lot in common with the author. I, too, don’t drink alcohol, and thought it was fantastic that he linked his abstinence in that area with how highly he prizes his reputation as a Christian. It is simply on the list of things he does not do. I also agreed with most of what he said about handling fads and movements in evangelicalism. I found that Miller wasn’t writing exclusively to male Baptist preachers; he was writing to his younger Christian friends who would be walking the road of ministry as he did.
In the quotes/reviews section at the beginning of the book, Timothy George (founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, AL) said, “There is something in this book to offend almost everyone, from John Piper to Brian McLaren. But there is also a lot of gospel truth and hard-won wisdom from a pastor-professor who loves Jesus and His church with all his heart. This is the irrepressible Calvin Miller at his best.” Miller calls it like he sees it.
And I think we would be friends. His candor and empathy are inspiring to me. If I survive being a pastor (and many ministers drop out, especially the ones who go to seminary), I think I will sound a lot like this Calvin Miller.
Now go see if your local library has this book!
I just found out that the author, Calvin Miller, died the year after this book was published. That was two years ago. Rest in peace in the arms of our Father, friend.