In Pastoring the Pastor Tim Cooper and Kelvin Gardiner tell the story of Daniel Donford, the new minister at Broadfield Community Church. Like many young ministers, pastor Dan begins his ministry feeling self-assured that he has the right skills and techniques to grow the church (applying the techniques of his favorite church growth guru). It doesn’t take him very long in ministry to discover that what he thinks will work and what actually works, is not necessarily the same. Lucky for him, pastor Dan has an uncle who spent 38 years in ministry with the same church and has years of wisdom to impart. In a series of back and forth emails, Uncle Eldon guides young Dan in how to keep his priorities straight in ministry, how to care for his own spiritual health, how to deal with conflict and difficult people in the church and power struggles, and he encourages him to make sure he develops a proper support network. He also guides him in how to offer pastor care to parishioners and a minister friend caught in the vice of pornography.
The entire book is made up of a series of emails, mostly between Dan and Eldon, though we also get to hear from parishioners about what they think about their new minister. Despite my general skepticism of didactic fiction (fiction whose primary aim is to teach you something) I was engaged by the story and found that the fictional uncle Eldon had lots of wisdom to impart. I would recommend this book for seminarians and those who are in ministry (certainly others could read it fruitfully but I think the audience who would benefit most from it are those). The content and language of this book assumes that the pastor is male, so my ordained female friends would have to make some necessary adjustments but the advice is biblically sound and wise. As someone who is seminary trained and vocationally called to ministry, I appreciated the practical advice even as I am still in the process of looking for a call. It reminded me of a couple of classes I had which warned of the pitfalls implicit in ministry. The fictional format allows Cooper and Gardiner to discuss the issues in an engaging way and makes difficult truths easy to swallow. I do not hesitate to recommend this to any of my colleagues in ministry. I found it very encouraging and you will too. If anything this book underscores the necessity of good mentors if we are to be faithful in following our call.
I received this book through Cross Focused Reviews and Christian Focus Publications in exchange for this review.