The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller

Written by C. John Miller Reviewed By Marcus Honeysett

The Heart of a Servant Leader is a book that should be on the shelf of every single pastor, mission worker, and theological educator. It superbly letters combines heartfelt and heart-warming pastoral theology with a deep passion for leadership, mentoring, and church planting.

The book is a posthumous collection of pastoral letters from Miller to pastors, mission workers, and others who approached him for advice and counsel in his various roles (founding pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, lecturer in practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Director of World Harvest Mission).

The letters are organised around four themes: the glory of God as the motivation for serving; faith, humility, and prayer as the basics of servant-leadership; persevering in suffering; and encouragement. Each is written to a real person struggling with discipleship and ministry issues. There is nothing theoretical or abstract here. As with all of Miller’s writing and teaching, each one is shot through with the glory of God, wise teaching about grace, conviction of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and faith. He is honest about his own struggles and never writes from a position of superiority. The whole book comes across as an appeal for spiritual leaders to be servants.

This is one of the few contemporary books to which I regularly return to have my heart pierced with the love of God in Christ. It is excellent for helping Christian leaders face our own sin patterns with sorrow leading to repentance. Miller contends that knowing God, being savvy about the enemy we face, and knowing ourselves with honesty is the heart of a healthy spiritual walk:

My own heart likes this order better: 1. Know your friend [the grace of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit]; 2. Know your enemy [sin, the flesh, and the devil]; 3. Know your personal limitations [your own particular fleshly characteristics and habits]. And I would keep the controlling theme of point 1 even when talking about points 2 and 3.

At the same time I do not think that an emphasis on grace leads to a soft ministry on sin and the severe demands of the Law. Actually it seems to me that such grace teaching makes it possible for sinners like us to hear the hardest things said about our sin patterns, and that can lead into a healthy sorrow which then leads back to sanity, i.e., repentance. (p. 60)

Anyone familiar with Miller’s other work, such as the Sonship Course, will find the same strong, refreshing, emphasis on grace teaching us to say no to ungodliness.

Being a collection of letters, each section is short, eminently readable and highly personal. Pastors will find here a model of how to write pastoral letters that are direct, kind, and full of practically worked-out truth.

This book will help you lean on God and teach you to help others do the same. It is one of few easy-reading modern books that will warm your heart and inform your pastoral practice equally whether you have been in ministry for one year or twenty. Highly recommended.

Marcus Honeysett


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