Book Review - Staying Fresh By Paul Mallard
23 Apr 2018
Even in a market as over saturated as the Christian paperback, there is one genre of book I would love to read more of. I don’t need yet another book written by a young pastor or author trying to bring a new take on old truths. Of far greater value is hearing from older pastors and Christians. Men and women who perhaps may not be quite “finishing the course” yet, but who can look back on God’s faithfulness and on decades of their faithful service - and are able to testify to both, and share their wisdom. I am very grateful for the fact that Alec Motyer kept writing and publishing up until his death (and if you haven’t read his book on preaching, stop reading this and head to Amazon now!), and we should be very thankful for the rate at which Sinclair Ferguson’s books are coming out.
I would put “Staying Fresh” by Paul Mallard in that category. He may not thank me for the comparison but I mean that to be the highest of compliments. Seen in one way, there is nothing new or fresh about the subject. There are many books which answer the question “how can someone stay fresh for a lifetime of ministry?”. There are many which give the same answer that he gives - conviction (an abiding confidence in God), competence (leading people with skilful hands”), but most of all character (leading well because your heart is right). Yet, what sets this one apart is the personal experience that Paul Mallard brings to his writing.
It would be easy to skim the chapter headings and tick them off mentally. “Know that we are loved.” “Count the cost”. “Guard your marriage”. “Control your diary”. “Preach the gospel to your own heart”. “Keep your eye on the prize” - yep, all present and correct, the kind of headings we’d all use if we were to write a talk on keeping going in ministry after doing the job for 10 minutes. But it is very different to hear those principles from a pastor who is looking back and saying - these really are the most important lessons to learn.
I read each chapter thinking “I know this - but do I really live it?”. Paul Mallard is a good writer, rooting each principle in Scripture, hammering home the application, and weaving in his personal experience. It is obvious he is a British writer - the personal illustrations are there and important but they don’t take over like I suspect they would have done had this been written by an American!
If you have read Paul Mallard’s previous book “Invest In Your Suffering” (and if you haven’t, do - it is particularly helpful to read with a group, we used it at our men’s breakfast) you will know something of his families personal struggles. His wife has been very ill for many years. This obviously gives the book a greater weight. The chapter on suffering is particularly challenging as he applies what he has learnt through his suffering to pastoral ministry. One example of that is this -
“Part two of my ministry - over twenty years now - has been deeply influenced by our domestic circumstances. It has limited some of my movements and terminated opportunities. At the same time, it has transformed my preaching, deepened my pastoral insights and thrown me into complete dependence on God.”
Overall, if you are wanting to learn how to keep going serving the Lord over the long haul, I’d recommend this book. Because we don’t just learn by being taught new information - sometimes we learn most because of who it is that is teaching us.