Jack Miller was a pastor on the verge of burnout. In 1970, while pastoring a small church in Pennsylvania and teaching practical theology at Westminster Seminary, he became so discouraged that he resigned from both his church and the seminary. He had failed.
Gradually he came to realize what was wrong. He realized he had been motivated by his own personal glory and the approval of those he was serving. “He said that when he repented of his pride, fear of people, and love of their approval,” his daughter writes, “his joy in ministry returned, and he took back his resignations from the church and seminary.”
Miller came to a turning point. “He had been relying on the wrong person to do ministry – himself.” He began to give up all dependence on himself, and began to learn the basics of doing Christian ministry in Christ’s strength. The result was greater freedom and power in his life and ministry.
Over the years, Miller wrote letters to help mentor others and share what he had learned. These letters have been collected in this book, The Heart of a Servant Leader. The letters cover topics such as our motivation for serving, repentance as a way of life, facing unfair criticism, and staying long enough in one place to be humbled. A couple of samples from his letters:
What I finally came to as I walked and prayed for you is the old old story of getting the gospel clear in your own hearts and minds, making it clear to others, and doing it with only one motive – the glory of Christ. Getting the glory of Christ before your eyes and keeping it there – is the greatest work of the Spirit that I can imagine. And there is no greater peace, especially in the times of treadmill-like activity, than doing it all for the glory of Christ.
Make sure you are enjoying yourself and not taking your work too seriously. You don’t have anything to prove to us or to the world. The work is finished at Calvary, and that work alone has unlimited meaning and value. Keep your focus there. And then read Robert Ludlum and/or go on vacation.
This book has echoes of Tim Keller, or maybe Tim Keller has echoes of Jack Miller. It’s about as close as most of us will get to being mentored by either one of them. There are few books that are as valuable as this one for pastors to read.