The Christian life is hard. It is a difficult, winding narrow path, and few are able to find it. Jesus himself reminded us of that fact (see Matthew 7:13-14). Yet the Christian life is worth it, because Jesus is worth it. This long and difficult path leads to eternal life. For those who travel this narrow path, they must not walk it alone. The Bible promises that, for the believer, the Holy Spirit is with us to guide us along the way. Yet it is also important to have a few others who can be a source of encouragement. It is also important that we be a source of encouragement to others on the journey as well. The theological term for this is discipleship, but that can be a confusing term, because it can illicit the idea of classrooms and church programs. The more practical term to describe this relationship is friendship. The type of relationship described in the New Testament between the Apostle Paul and Timothy. This type of relationship is modeled in the novel by D. A. Carson and John Woodbridge, Letters Along The Way: From A Senior Saint To A Junior Saint (Crossway 2022).
Originally published by Crossway in 1993, and re-released in partnership with The Gospel Coalition in 2022, the book chronicles the relationship between fictitious characters Paul Woodson and Tim Journeyman. The novel is narrated by Tim, who is a younger believer and aspiring pastor. It records the span of Tim’s relationship with Paul, an older believer and seminary professor, over the span of about a decade. Each chapter is set up by Tim, who provides the background and topic of conversation. The bulk of each chapter is then a letter from Paul providing his guidance and feedback. The conversation covers a wide range topics including: conversion, friendships, ministry, seminary, pastoral calling, guilt over past sins, marriage, theology, curating a personal library, and much more.
The material discussed between the main characters Tim and Paul can be found in various books. Yet Carson and Woodbridge capture profound truth writing within the framework of a novel. Even the significance of the main characters names does not go unnoticed by the reader. The authors obviously intend to portray a modern day version of Paul and Timothy. Carson and Woodbridge do an excellent job with the letters, which lead the reader to think that they are writing from personal experience. The book is well written and draws the reader into the conversation in such a way that one forgets that Tim Journeyman and Paul Woodson are fictitious characters. Much of the discussion hits close to home, and will leave the reader feeling encouraged in their own faith journey, even if the specifics are different.
Letters Along The Way is an excellent resource for modeling practical, yet intentional discipleship. Carson and Woodbridge provide a gift to the church with this volume. Crossway is to be commended for taking the opportunity to re-release this wonderful book to a new generation. There are many young men who aspire to be pastors, yet do not have the guidance that Paul Woodson provides Tim Journeyman. This book would be a great resource for these young men as they begin to consider their calling and the implications thereof. It should also serve as a catalyst to pray for older wiser men in the faith, who can serve as Paul’s to aspiring Timothy’s. Letters Along The Way would also make excellent required reading for seminary pastoral ministry classes. Although the majority of the book is geared towards advice for an aspiring pastor, there is much that can be gleaned for every believer. More relationships, as modeled on the book, are needed in the Church today. This book is a true treasure for the Church in this generation.
For more pastoral resources please visit the For Pastors page.
Editor’s note: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
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