ONE PASTOR’S UTOPIA
Book Review By David P. Craig
As a pastor I enjoy reading biographies and auto-biographies of other pastors. I especially can identify with the struggles that other pastors face. Unfortunately this book is written a lot like a Eulogy – even though it was written before Rogers passed away. It is full of Adrian Rogers’ accomplishments and highlights from a very gifted pastor’s life. It’s almost comparable to reading the life of Joseph in the Bible – without the hardships. Rogers almost comes across as a “perfect pastor” – which obviously doesn’t exist. A life full of nothing but successes, victories, grand tributes, and accolades. It reads a lot like a fairy tale – A Pastoral Utopia.
There is one major hardship that Joyce writes about early in the book – the loss of one of their children to SIDS. This was actually the one time in the book where I could identify with this couple. I could identify with their pain, loss, and suffering. But even this episode was glossed over. One almost gets the feeling that 99% of Adrian’s and Joyce’s life together was Camelot. I just don’t think this is reality.
In my own experience of the pastorate with real men and women life consists of hills and valleys – and there are usually more valleys to go through than hills – this book has one valley and the rest is about all the hills. This may be encouraging to some who read it. But I’m concerned for young pastors or young men and women who may read this book and think that ministry is all roses with no thorns.
I would have liked to have read a biography that was less on the surface of reality and went a little deeper into some of the basic daily realities and hardships of life. It wouldn’t even make a good movie, because there is simply not enough conflict and resolution. It is a book piled with grace on top of grace – and I just don’t think it’s transparent or authentic enough. Honestly, there was precious little to help the average pastor in this book. It read more like the highlights of the greatest pastor of the 20th Century. There were very few things that most pastors could actually relate to. It would be the equivalent of a struggling baseball player trying to figure out how to be a better baseball player and reading a biography of Babe Ruth which only highlighted and focused on all his home runs – without ever talking about any of his strike outs – and how he handled his hitting slumps.
The best part of the book for preachers starts with about 30% of the book left. It’s an extended interview with Adrian Rogers on his homiletical philosophy and sermon preparation. I think this section is very helpful and worth the price of the book. It’s very thorough and yet concise and has many helpful tips in answering some very important questions for sermon preparation like: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching? What is the difference between preaching and unction? What is the nature and central place of preaching? Is Jesus Christ central to preaching? And many others.
I think this book will be especially interesting for pastors (or would-be pastors). It reminds me a lot of “A Man Called Peter” by Catherine Marshall. The difference is that Marshall’s book was more transparent and dealt with more of the tough issues that pastors face. This book may bring a lot of encouragement and inspire many young pastors, but in all honesty – 99% of the pastorates I know of are nothing like the one described in this book.