“Preparation for Ministry”: An Effective Little Book

  
My wife purchased several books for me for Christmas. I love books! No matter what the occasion, if one were to ask me, “What can I get you?” My reply is always, “Books!” But I also like specific books. I thoroughly enjoy theological books, church history, but also practical books. I received several books on youth ministry and communication, but along with these practical works Hannah gave me the book titled, “Preparation for Ministry”. It is written by Allan Harman, a pastor and professor. 

First Thoughts

My first thoughts regarding the work is that it would be more substantial. The actual work only covers 43 pages, but to my surprise the conciseness turned out to be a strength. More on that to come.

My second thought is that, because it is written from a Reformed tradition, that it would be incredibly strict concerning its applicational thoughts to ministry. Again, the book greatly surprised me.

The third thought I had when perusing the table of contents was that more than half the book was focused on sermon preparation and an address by B B Warfield. While I am still sightly disappointed with the length, the benefits of the appendixes are worth purchasing the book.

A Brief Breakdown of the Strengths

As I promised, the conciseness of the book turned out to be a great strength. As a minister (praise God!), a seminary graduate, and a lover of knowledge, I tend to enjoy rich and challenging theological works. If a book has a bibliography of 15-20 pages, then I get excited! So when I received the book and saw the size of it, I was disappointed. However, upon reading the work I was pleasantly shocked that the length did not impugn upon the content. Rather, it fortified it. Granted, this is not (nor does it claim to be) a work of thorough scholarship. It is a book concerned with “a call to ministry, theological training, and entry into pastoral work.” (vii) The length makes it an excellent tool to pass on to young people dealing with the question of a call to ministry. Additionally, it makes for a great tool for small groups to discuss, especially in the presence of a current minister.

Another strength that comes from this work is that is weds intellectual study with spiritual vitality. The address by Warfield entitled, “The Religious Life of Theological Students” wonderfully incorporates both the need for personal piety and the blessings and necessity of communal life. I have heard from individuals that books are not needed, we simply need the Bible. And while I do not mean to undermine the Scriptures, this is foolish thinking. Warfield’s comments are amazing: “Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’, is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’ Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God?” (95) Harman does a great job of wedding the two as well in chapter five.

And one final strength, which is also personal for me, is the emphasis Harman places on the minister’s family. In his chapter “Staying Fresh” Harman writes, “Your first priority has to be your own family, who need fatherly care and attention. Nothing can substitute for this, for if you cannot care for your family, how can you care for the church of God? (I Tim. 3:5)” (38) I know of several ministers who have ruined their families and ministries because they neglected their families. For him to include this in a work designed for young people, it is priceless advice.

Final Thoughts

I have to conlude, predominantly because I don’t want to rewrite the book, but also because it would be worth your time and money to purchase and read it yourself. I would like to, however, address one of my comments regarding the predominat Reformed overtones of the work. A brief glance at his references and it is easily seem that his Reformed background comes into play. But the surprise was that the work itself would avail to backgrounds of several persuasions, and since it is a work for the Church (notice the capital ‘c’), it can and should be applied to all within Christ’s body. So, preacher friends, get this book! Keep a couple of extra copies for those young people who may have a spark of God’s call in their lives. Church member, check it out! This book gives a brief glimpse into the life of your minister. It will enable you to pray for fervently and effectually for him, and speaking on behalf of ministers, we need your prayers. 

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