Many seminarians have been handed the ubiquitous free book of advice from the newly retired ministers’ pen. The titles vary, but they have the same theme: What Seminary did not Teach You, or How to Survive on Staff at a Church.
Thankfully, Brett Younger’s recent release, Who Moved My Pulpit? provides wonderfully fresh insight into the life of pastoring from his experiences and steers clear of the monotonous tone of other monographs.
This is not a collection of funny stories or reprinted newspaper columns. Although Younger could have chosen to publish both, instead he offers a practical advice manual for young and old pastor alike who want to learn to laugh with themselves and their ministry settings.
Younger, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, deals with the gamut of ministry in 11 easily readable chapters with an introduction and conclusion. The clever chapter headings disguise the basic outline of the book that is based on a typical pastor’s journey through ministry. Each chapter contains reflections from his journey through (1) accepting a call to ministry, going to the university, attending seminary; (2) meeting with search committees and beginning a new ministry in a church; (3) preaching; (4) leading worship; (5) administering church operations; (6) learning to do evangelism, education, ministry and pastoral care; (7) ministering to children, youth and college students; (8) following the church year; (9) designing and editing a newsletter; (10) dealing with difficult issues; and (11) networking and attending conferences.
According to Younger, these rather mundane activities of the pastor are actually the places where fun, creativity, energy and joy intersect. In the notes to and from children, the bewilderment that one feels when he discovers the gospel, and the honest assessment that secretaries really do run the church, all of these contain the elements of laughter and enjoyment for anyone in ministry.
Younger freely pokes fun at those churches and ministers who have given into the fads of worship gimmicks and to the ever-growing number of acronyms for programs that should lead to greater success in evangelism. With clever wit and candor, he asks us to reflect amusingly that the greater experiences of ministry life are saved for those who understand that the latest tricks of the trade do not truly measure the heartbeat of ministry.
Younger knows that the ministry of presence still has importance in the hospital, education comes after the facts are forgotten, ministers tell the truth for the good of their own souls, meetings can and often do kill churches and their members and pastors are the luckiest people alive.
This book is aimed primarily at senior pastors of churches rather than the staff members or other non-church clergy. With the exception of the introduction, we read very little about staff foibles.
This book should be required reading for new and prospective pastors wanting to know the truth of ministry while smiling all the way to the pulpit and pew.
Bill Shiell is senior pastor at Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas.
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William D. Shiell is the President of Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He is the author of five books, most recently Acts in the Preaching the Word Series (Smyth & Helwys).