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Book: Mondays with My Old Pastor

Jose Luis Navajo’s Mondays with My Old Pastor from Thomas Nelson Publishers is a book with a  good intention, decent execution, but a somewhat fatal flaw. Let’s take a look:

<---There’s the cover.

Mondays with My Old Pastor is the story of a young, burned-out pastor prescribed “mandatory rest” by his doctor. He takes part of that time and visits with his old pastor, old being “former and experienced” not “bad old.” The pastor imparts the distilled pearls of wisdom gathered along the path of many years of ministry. The happy ending is, of course, that the young pastor leaves the book committed afresh to his work and committed to strengthening the younger ones behind him.

Overall, the intention of the book is excellent. Navajo writes to share some basic wisdom points that are helpful and encouraging to new pastors and tired pastors. The basic premise is the strongest wisdom principle in the book: do not be a young pastor without seeking the wisdom of those who have gone before. After you pack in the academics, seek out the experienced wise ones that help you grow.

Then there are the fifteen principles discussed in the book. These are all well worth reviewing for those in the ministry. The work here well supports the author’s intentions and is quite helpful.

The execution, though, troubles me a bit. The overarching concern is that the primary sources for these pearls appear to be cultural references rather than biblical text. To me, that’s a weakness that is very hard to get over. The wisdom is still good and easy to digest, but the base point is not the deep foundation of Scripture. It’s not that the wisdom is unbiblical—in fact, it looks like it all has a solid base in Scripture. That base is just left implicit rather than explicit. By leaving it in this manner, readers may make the assumption that the most crucial advice for ministry is folktales and not Scripture.

The folktales are good---many of them are not known to me, and I place that in the book being originally in Spanish. That may also account for the lack of Scripture references embedded in the text: this is a book from another culture, and while white evangelical-land demands such footnotes, other cultures may be less particular about it. Navajo’s view may be that the Biblical grounding is obvious, so who needs the citations? The answer? Thick-skulled folks like me.

Now, what I see as the somewhat fatal flaw. The book escapes as “mostly dead” with this, but mostly dead is still slightly alive, and can still be brought forward to usefulness.

The book presents itself as autobiographical. Yet it does not quite ring as factually true in all things. It is, perhaps, more properly seen as a parable. Except the text does not state that it’s a parable. Instead, one is left wondering whether or not the story is true. Why does this matter?

Because if the pastoral advice is really from a wise old man, then it’s easier to adopt it. If it’s just the ideas of an author who knows his own credibility will not persuade us to adopt them, so he idealizes an old, wise man for them, it’s another story.

Now, again, the wisdom in the book is sound. Very sound.

I just have a problem here.

I will get over it, and I do recommend you take a read at this book. Especially consider the fifteen principles stated in it.

Free book received from BookSneeze in exchange for the review.

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