Monday, April 24, 2006

Review: Dear Timothy

Imagine you’re sitting at a table surrounded by the modern Apostle Paul’s, Jonathan Edwards’s, and Charles Spurgeon’s of our day… and each one of them has some wisdom concerning pastoral ministry that he wants to share with you. Such is the arrangement and opportunity that has been made available in Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry (edited by Tom Ascol). This multi-authored book is assembled in the format of individual letters written to a fictional character “Timothy,” a young man who is new to the pastorate. Tom explains in the preface, “Timothy is a composite character. He is twenty-six years old, has recently graduated from seminary, and has been in his church for six months. He and his wife Mary have been married for four years and they have a two-year-old son with another child on the way. Each pastor was asked to offer counsel to him on the basis of a long-term relationship and sincere interest in seeing him make a good start.”

Tom begins this wonderful book in the preface with establishing the importance of pastoral influence upon pastors. As Tom notes, this is the concept that is wonderfully portrayed in the title of Louis McBurney’s work, Every Pastor Needs a Pastor. When pastors and teachers fail to receive the counsel and care that is required for those who pour out themselves for the church, ministry-burn-out is soon to come. Equally important is that personal Paul-to-Timothy fellowship that is necessary for those who are new to the pastorate. Tom reminds us that Paul too received such influence. Consider Barnabas who, while many were still skeptical of their former persecutor, took Paul “under his wing, introduced him to church leaders, and helped him get stared in the work of the ministry (Acts 9:26-30, 11:25-26). The man who was to become our Lord’s foremost apostle was greatly blessed to have such an experienced minister counsel him early in his ministry.”

So, in an age where the art of letter-writing is a dying one, the letters in Dear Timothy are quite reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s transferring the care he received from Barnabas into his own passion for the life of Timothy. “Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus,” Tom writes, “serve as divinely inspired manuals of pastoral ministry. Though Paul undoubtedly gave himself in personal ministry to these men, it is the preservation of his letters to them that has served the church so well throughout history.” Likewise, the authors of this work express the same concern as they pen their letters to the fictional character Timothy, sharing the wisdom that they have received from years of studying the Scriptures and experiencing the daily ministry of the pastorate: “The twenty chapters that follow reflect the collective wisdom of more than 480 years of pastoral experience. Each contributor is, at the time of writing, serving a local church. Pastoral ministry is their calling. Their contributions have been made in and around the regular preaching, teaching, counseling, and leadership demands that go with pastoring a local church. This fact lends credibility to what they have written.”

Here’s the chapter list:

1. Establish Priorities by Tom Ascol
2. Watch Your Life by Conrad Mbewe
3. Love Your Family by Tedd Tripp
4. Love Your Flock by Ted Christman
5. Memorize Scripture by Andy Davis
6. Pray Always by Martin Holdt
7. Cultivate Humility by C. J. Mahaney
8. Be Courageous by Bill Ascol
9. Do the Work of an Evangelist by Mark Dever
10. Do Personal Work by Fred Malone
11.Watch Your Doctrine by Raymond Perron
12. Keep Studying by Ligon Duncan
13. Learn from the Puritans I by Joel Beeke
14. Learn from the Puritans II by Joel Beeke
15. Preach the Word by Roger Ellsworth
16.Worship in Spirit and Truth by Terry Johnson
17. Train Other Men by Steve Martin
18. Care for the Nations by Phil Newton
19. Don’t Neglect Revival by Ray Ortlund, Jr.
20. Find a Place to Settle by Geoff Thomas

For having a variety of pastors retrieved from various backgrounds and creeds, this work displays a wonderful over-all unity. It is balanced and perspectival, but it is one work. It is amazing that while each author/pastor writes concerning his own topic, the foundational principles expressed in each chapter are in wonderful like-mindedness.

Each author’s topic was very appropriately assigned. For instance, we have Tripp on the family, Dever on evangelism, Mahaney on humility, etc. In each case, I don’t know if I could select a better person to impart wisdom on the particular topic. And obviously, your every-day young pastor does not have a close relationship with this many gifted leaders, but by reading this book he receives part of the benefits of knowing these men.

Additionally, each author displays tremendous creativity in incorporating his topic into the life of the fictional character “Timothy.” This is, no doubt, creativity that has been acquired from years of counseling and preaching. But though these may be practically inconsequential details compared to the work as a whole, it is quite entertaining to listen in on how each of these men of God would write to his friend and fellow minister of the Word. Indeed, evidences of grace are displayed even in the small elements of creativity that spice these articles. And these authors did a great job at bringing reality to their statements. The reader truly feels like he is Timothy.

I heartily endorse this work and recommend it to young pastors, old pastors, and basically any Christian, and I joyfully pass on to you the link to where you can purchase Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry.

Evan May.


  1. Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students.....

    ..... and this volume should to be in every preacher's library -

    .....YOUNG, OLD AND ALL IN BETWEEN will be blessed!

  2. Editing note: the apostrophes attached to names in the first sentence are unneeded. You want plurals, not possessives.

    Thank you.

  3. Anonymous:

    Thanks for the note. I agree in principle.

    However, in some cases it is accepted and proper to attach apostrophes to make nouns plural if the noun being used is abnormal as a plural. For instance, the plural for the number one (1) is 1's ("1's and 2's are nifty numbers"). I applied this rule here because the plural of a name is an anomaly.

    In all other circumstances, however, the rule is as you state it.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. First time to comment here at the Triablogue Convention, so be kind!

    That's a great book.
    Another that I would recommend is The Cross And Christian Ministry, by D. A. Carson, as well as Spurgeon's Lectures To My Students, which was already mentioned.

  6. First time to comment here at the Triablogue Convention, so be kind!

    :: breaks Doxo's jaw :::


    Another that I would recommend is The Cross And Christian Ministry, by D. A. Carson, as well as Spurgeon's Lectures To My Students, which was already mentioned.

    Those are excellent recommendations.

  7. Dear Timothy is a good book. I especially like Conrad Mbewe's chapter, and I can see why some people call him 'The Spurgeon of Africa.'