The Pastorate Can Be A Wonderful Life: Review By David P. Craig
In this book John Huffman has written his memoirs highlighting five particular areas of his life as a pastor: his education, family life, ministry in the local church, international ministry, and working with the Boards of several successful para-church ministries. Dr. Huffman does not deal with the day-to-day minutia of ministry – counseling, visitation, sermon preparation, and so forth. He primarily highlights the big issues, people, and events of over 50 years in pastoral ministry and his 70 years of life.
John writes about his education from growing up in Boston to attending Wheaton College and Princeton University. He went to school with several very influential politicians and ministers and recounts some great stories involving sports, politics, and his world-wide adventures in travel.
In local ministry John began working as a pastor with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale in New York, as well as pastorates in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Key Biscayne, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and his last 31 years as the Senior Minister at St. Andrews Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California. It’s interesting to hear about some of his conflicts and struggles with parishioners, as well as some of the amazing things God did in each of these ministries. He talks a lot in the book about being an evangelical in a main-line denomination – the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He gives some wonderful commentary and insights into what he loves about the denomination (like their governmental structure) and what has been difficult (sexual/political issues). No matter what side you land on these issues – his diplomatic skills have been appreciated by both the liberal and conservative elements in his denomination.
Sprinkled throughout this book are fascinating accounts of his relationships with some amazing people like Richard Nixon, Norman Vincent Peale, Mark Hatfield, Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, Harold Ockenga, Carl F. Henry, Charles Pew, and many others. John traveled extensively in his ministry and has been to the Middle East over thirty times leading tours to Israel and Europe when he was only 18 years old!
John has been a Board member of World Vision, Christianity Today International, Gordon Conwell Seminary, and many other significant organizations. It’s fascinating to hear his stories of Board involvement and the different decisions he’s been involved in making over the years.
Dr. Huffman gives us a little glimpse into the family life of a busy pastor and gives some good insights and wisdom of what to do, and not to do scattered throughout the book. Overall, I really enjoyed reading about the highs and lows of this gifted pastors faithful ministry over the years and how God has used and is continuing to use him for the good of the Church in the United States and around the world. He retells the painful story of the loss of his eldest daughter to cancer – which is absolutely gut wrenching. Even though, most of his ministry and life have been full of blessings, the reality is that suffering visits every person and every family at some point in life. John shares with great empathy and compassion how he and his wife Anne dealt with their loss – and gives some sage advice on dealing with tragedy and loss when it knocks on our front door.
As a pastor myself I enjoyed hearing his story and different tidbits of advice and wisdom throughout the book. John has been a tireless worker for the sake of the Gospel around the globe. He has also been very influential in the local churches where he has served and abroad in missions work. He has traversed smooth and turbulent waters and has passed on much good here to be learned by pastors for future generations. Even if you aren’t a pastor you will enjoy this autobiography. Huffman is a very gifted story-teller and every story in this memoir has a few nuggets thrown in that can benefit a person in any walk of life. Huffman has truly lived an amazing calling that deserves to be read, gleaned from, and emulated.