Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Review: Confessional Success

Review of Peter Davadsan's Confessional Success: If I did it, so can you!. Reredos & Ambo Press, 2010. 178 pages.

With his characteristic wit and wisdom, Fr. Davadsan lays out a clear path to success in the parish ministry for any aspiring Lutheran pastor. He has, of course, served for over a decade at one of the Synod's flagship congregations and his well-known personal successes are undoubtedly the best possible inducement to purchase this book.

What are the keys to success in parish ministry? Davadsan lays them out over the 178 pages of this monograph in several elegant bulleted lists. For example, in a chapter entitled, “Personal Characteristics to be Cultivated” we find this in the subheading of “Family Virtue.”

  • Be tall

  • Have an attractive wife

  • Have cute and well-behaved children

That short list, in and of itself, is worth more than a few credit hours in our practical theology departments! But Davadsan never leaves it at a mere list, he goes on to flesh out his points, to wit, “Your wife should be attractive, but not too attractive. A too attractive wife can often cause strife in the ladies' aid. If you are single keep this in mind as your search for a spouse. If you are married already and your wife is too attractive, gently explain to her, in your calling as husband and head of household, that she should dress a little more frumpily. Likewise, if your wife is not attractive enough there are various ways of accommodating this fact in parish ministry. . .In a similar vein, children should be cute, but not cloyingly so – see the chart on page 134.”

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of ministry, we find it hard to improve on the wisdom presented in chapter 5, “Meshing With Your Congregation.” It is a truism that not every pastor can serve in every parish. But Davadsan elucidates the truism into a system which can be followed.

When you receive a call and begin your deliberation process, keep in mind that the foundation of all Confessional Success is a parish that agrees with you in every particular. Of course, when you read that, you will probably despair of ever achieving Confessional Success! How can I ever find a parish that agrees with me in every particular? It is at this point that most (Confessionally Unsuccessful) pastors throw up their hands and just try to muddle through. What they neglect is something that I read once in Aquinas while preparing for my previous volume Philosophy and Poetry as Gateway to the Christian Faith Experience. Thomas says (I am paraphrasing, of course) that if the converse is not necessarily true, one can, nevertheless, extract veracity from the converse by the transposition of terms relative to the predicate of the thing-to-be-reified. Applying this to the case of parish ministry, when our goal (that is, our thing-to-be-reified) is aparish that agrees with you in every particular we can achieve this very simply by reifying the transposition: simply become a pastor who agrees with the parish in every particular and all will be well!”

With a cover price of only $13.13, Confessional Success is a worthy and affordable addition to the Lutheran pastor's library.

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