Book Review: Dear Timothy by Tom Ascol

by Keifer Navey

If you ask me, you can really never have enough books on pastoral ministry. Reading from authors from all across the world and various contexts gives me the energy to press onward into ministry. I love hearing about faithful brothers in every corner of God’s Church and I appreciate their insight as well. Though scenery and cultures change, the importance of remaining faithful to God’s calling on our lives as pastors and elders do not. And this book is a prime example of that. From Conrad Mbewe in Zambia and Raymond Perron in Quebec to Ray Ortlund in Nashville and Mark Dever in Capitol Hill, DC. Combined, these pastor’s nearly 700 years of experience in the ministry lay in these pages, and it’s yours for the taking.

Dear Timothy

As Paul imparted his wisdom to Timothy through letters, this collection of writings from seasoned pastors contains over 480 years of combined ministry experience. Old and new pastors alike will treasure this compilation of heartfelt advice and nuggets of truth that will guide them through the challenges and joys of their calling in Christ. Contributors include Joel Beeke, Ligon Duncan, Fred Malone, Mark Dever, Tedd Tripp, Ray Ortlund, Jr., C. J. Mahaney, Roger Ellsworth, and others.

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As I’ve written elsewhere, the Pastoral Epistles are essential reading for any and all ministers, elders, deacons, and leaders in the Church. Two of three epistles are addressed to a young pastor in Ephesus named Timothy. Parodying Paul’s style of writing pastoral instruction through letters, each essay in this book is written as a letter to a young “Timothy”. This may sound gimmicky but it’s actually a fresh approach to a field manual on pastoral theology and ministry.

Key Points of the Book

  1. “Watch Your Life” by Conrad Mbewe: Mbewe’s chapter on sanctification is my favorite chapter in the book, and has one of the starkest warnings throughout the book: “Timothy, A full head and a full library are not enough.” For me someone who prizes their library, I was shaken to my bones. Conrad harkens to 1 Timothy 4:6 and Paul’s exhortation to “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Doctrine will decide how we behave, our theology should have practical implications, such as living a godly life.
  1. “Watch Your Doctrine” by Raymond Perron: Where Conrad leaves off, Raymond Perron picks up later in the book, with his encouragement to “watch your doctrine”. Lamenting about living in a time where sound doctrine has taken a backseat in many pulpits, Raymond examines the importance of doctrine in the teachings of Christ, the early church, in “Timothy’s” own life and ministry. The writing of this chapter is superb and stands out among some of the others.
  1. “Don’t Neglect Revival” by “Ray Ortlund: Finally, one of the most important chapters discusses a long-forgotten or often neglected term, revival. If you know of Ray Ortlund, this chapter reads just as he speaks and the warmth and tenderness characteristic of Ray’s preaching and teaching comes through in every word. Encouraging not to settle for mediocrity in the church and ministry, Ray reminds the young “Timothy” that he cannot make or bring revival himself, but only God can. A humbling chapter for many preachers who think they can revitalize their church or bring hope to their cities by the works of their own hands when really it is only God who can do something so magnificent. But that gives us no excuse to be passive.

Powerful Quotes From the Book

  • On loving your family, “The qualities of spiritual life that give the pastor credibility at home will lend the same measure of confidence to people he serves in the church.” (p.57)
  • On watching your doctrine, “the cost of souls that our Lord committed to your care was nothing less than the blood of the Eternal Son of God Himself.” (p.183)
  • On preaching the word, “Learn to delight in the Word of God in such a way that it will be apparent to all that you have a heave in your soul. You will soon find that many of your hearers will desire to have the same.” (p.261)
  • On watching your doctrine, “Bear in mind, dear friend, that it is the Word of God that does the work of God. The power is not in the sower but in the seed.” (p.186)
  • On loving your flock, “Your sheep must know and feel beyond any shadow of a doubt that you are gentle, tender, kind, friendly, interested, focused, and warm. If they doubt the reality of these virtues, they will inevitably doubt your love. If they doubt your love, your ministerial effectiveness will be virtually paralyzed.” (p.78)

Application in the Local Church

For the young preacher, this could be the balm for a sore and overwhelmed soul. The pressures and pains of ministry are quick to show themselves. Although no substitute for God’s Word, this book could be a helpful resource you’ve been looking for to guide you. Whether you are a seminary student, recently installed pastor, or house church planter, this book will be a joy to read for you and a helpful resource to turn to again and again.

Citation: “Dear Timothy (Revised Edition)” edited by Tom Ascol, Founders Press, 365 Pages

Interested in Planting a Biblical House Church?

If you’re interested in exploring, planting, or joining a biblical house church, this booklet will serve as a tool of clarity and confidence.

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Keifer is the Founder and book reviewer for Nerdy Theologians—a digital resource dedicated to recommending the most edifying theological literature. He is also a husband, father, preacher, and elder mentee at his local church. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

More by Keifer

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