Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor — A Review by Rev Dr Peter J. Scaer

revdr-peter-scaerThe title is stark, as is the cover. But with this book, Christopher Thoma has done a great service for the church. To be honest, I had it on my shelf for a month, and opened it up because my wife didn’t like the sound of the tv. But after biting on one chip, I finished the bag. The morning after, its images are seared on my brain. The accounts are fiction, the stories are real. They are what every pastor has felt. Now, mind you, this book is not an invitation to a pity party. But, it’s about the human condition, as seen from the pastor’s perch.

For starters, Thoma has a way with words, but more than words. He’s letting you inside the mind and heart of a pastor. What he does in these ten little vignettes is to offer an intimate picture of the pastor’s life, his joys and frustrations. In a sense, the pastor-people relationship is like a marriage. You get what you put into it. Do you want a pastor who is faithful and loving, one who cares for you, and for the things of God? One who cares for your eternal soul? Chances are, you already have one. And, to borrow a line from Stephen Stills, it might be the better course to love the one you’re with.

The stories here are poignant, insightful, full of joy, but also heartache, real heartache. In one, we’re told of a pastor receiving an anonymous letter, that is a love and prayer on the surface, but poison underneath. In another, we feel the pain of a pastor’s wife who feels invisible. We see a congregational member being sucked into a unholy cabal, under the guise of caring. We hear the story of a pastor eating cold spaghetti, bills mounting, wife fretting, while congregational members seem to be living a much easier life. Along those lines, there is the “careless word,” what happens when a snarky member comment on the pastor’s wife’s “new” 55,000 mile used mini-van. We get the pastor’s kid, the good kid, who loves his dad, but is under the prying eye of an unsympathetic member. And, we see a bishop who acts nothing like a bishop. You can also feel the smarm dripping off the page, the unctuous piety, the oily words that undermine so many a young pastor, sympathetic counsel that has no sympathy.

This little tome from Thoma is a must-read for church members, church councils, boards of elders, and, most definitely, every call committee and district president. Our pastors are doing good work, they love their people, but we can do a better, a much better job, of caring for them. And, the least we can do, if we love them, or if not them, the Lord who sent them, is to see the thing from their perspective. I spend my time now as a professor, but the words ring true, and remind me of my own brief time doing that which faithful pastors are called to do for a lifetime. Read this book and you’ll be informed. Changed, even.

[Originally published on Dr Scaer’s Facebook page; re-published with permission.]

Feeding the Lambs: A Worship Primer for Teachers of Children

thoma-feeding-lambsAuthor: Rev Christopher I. Thoma
$12.99; 144 pages, 6 x 9 TPB
Forthcoming; digital edition

Please consider ordering this book from your local bookshop, and posting a review. Why…?

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Rev Christopher Thoma explores the depths of worship and its relevance in the lives of children while offering insights which encourage teachers of children to celebrate ancient rites and ceremonies as time-tested tools for building faith.

What People are saying about Feeding the Lambs

“A consistent church liturgy serves the unity of the church in which children can participate. They are the church’s future and Chris Thoma lays out plans for assuring that this will happen in our congregations.”

REV. DR. DAVID P. SCAER
Chairman of the Systematics Department
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Author of Discourses in Matthew, James: The Apostle of Faith, and three volumes in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series

“Rather than diluting the liturgy to a child-like level that will quickly render it obsolete, Thoma offers an approach that will draw children into the Divine Service, the church year, and hymnody. This book is a must-read for pastors and Christian educators as well as parents.”

REV. JOHN T. PLESS
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions/Director of Field Education
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Author of Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, Didache, and Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today

“This book will be most helpful to parents teaching their children the greatness of God’s grace manifested through Jesus Christ in the liturgy by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

REV. DR. JAKOB K. HECKERT
Assistant Pastor and German Language Teacher, Our Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church
Hartland, Michigan

“This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to explore the riches of Lutheran worship as it relates to serving the Good News of Jesus Christ to young people today.”

REV. DR. JON D. VIEKER
Senior Assistant to the President, The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod
Assistant Director, LCMS Commission on Worship (1998-2010); Lutheran Service Book

“Pedagogically sound and theologically pure, FTL manages to speak realistically to those who have questions concerning the value of a liturgical life in this present age.”

REV. JOHN DAVID DUKE JR
Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church, Newfane, New York
Guest Instructor, Hebrew and Old Testament, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary Assistant Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church
St. Catharines, Ontario

The Homiletical Canvas: Poetry in Service to Preaching

thoma-homiletical_canvasAuthor: Rev Christopher I. Thoma
$12.99; 178 pages, 6 x 9 TPB
Forthcoming; digital edition

Please consider ordering this book from your local bookshop, and posting a review. Why…?

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Thoma has designed The Homiletical Canvas to help preachers recognize that among God’s people the greatest place for flexing the muscle of creativity is not the rites and ceremonies of public worship, but rather the sermon is the means to meet the need. Here, the preacher can express with colorful ingenuity the vibrant beauty of the Gospel, and he has the opportunity to offer this sacred truth with the voice of a poet. And because the preacher’s primary tool for expression is the spoken word, Thoma examines how language may be used in order that the preacher’s skills improve toward this end, eventually concluding that the study of poetry is crucial to the art of homiletics as a joyful expression of faith.

Faith, by its very nature, reaches out for the tools of language (poetry and rhetoric), not despising them, but holding them as means for colorful expression. And with this, men are equipped for “grasping the sacred truths, as well as for handling them skillfully and successfully” (Luther). This is the task of the preacher in the Lord’s church, to take hold of the sacred truths, to handle them skillfully in order that the end result of service, by God’s grace, will be that the hearers receive and remember the pure preaching of God’s Word in its beauty and splendor.

The Angels’ Portion: A Clergyman’s Whisk(e)y Narrative, Volume II

sc-crusade1-ARC-smallAuthor: Rev Christopher I. Thoma
$22.99; 628 pages, 6 x 9 TPB
Forthcoming; digital edition
The Angels’ Portion Facebook Page

Please consider ordering this book from your local bookshop, and posting a review. Why…?

SIGNED EDITIONS are available — $22.99 (+ $3.45 S&H)

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At over 620 glorious pages, the Reverend is back and better than ever in this follow up edition to the popular The Angels’ Portion: A Clergyman’s Whisky Narrative. Here in Volume II, Thoma mesmerizes readers once again as he carries them along in exploration of “aqua vitae” through his signature style of vivacious storytelling. And all along the way, it will be as he prophetically warns: “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll question humanity. You’ll see life differently. You’ll pour another of your favorite drams and give thanks for the gifts you’ve been given.”

What People are saying about The Angels’ Portion II

“The Force is definitely strong with this one. Wait… wrong meeting. Either way, this is one of the most entertaining whisk(e)y books I have had the pleasure of reading, humorous and informative at the same time. Perfect for a quiet night enjoying a dram on the Death Star.”

BRETT FERENCZ
Scotch Trooper
scotchtrooper-blog.com

“With due respect to Thoma’s modesty, he proves that the clergy and drink fit hand in glove with every page. The insight he offers on a range of whiskies is approachable to all, like a well-crafted cask strength, and his comments are carried off with a storyteller’s flair.”

RICHARD THOMAS
Author of Stonewall Goes West and Mother Earth, Bloody Ground
Managing Editor for WhiskeyReviewer.com

“A delightful read, not just for his thoughts on whisky, but for his brilliant observations on life. The Reverend’s passion pours out through every page and paragraph.”

ANDREW FLATT
AmateurDrammer.com

“As the Scotch Test Dummies, Scott and I have a compatriot in Reverend Thoma. Star Wars, zombies, and so much more, The Angels’ Portion Volume II is real whisky reviewing with a heavy dose of whimsy—just the way the Dummies like it!”

BART BRUNSCHEEN
Co-host of The Scotch Test Dummies
ScotchTestDummies.com

“Thoma’s reviews are as delightful—and varied!—as uncorking an untried bottle and sampling a wee dram. Rich in metaphor and exuding wit, this clergyman’s descriptions of his whisky wanderings will leave you as a good sermon should: blissfully content but desiring more.”

REV. TROY NEUJAHR
St. Peter Lutheran Church
Shaker Heights, Ohio

“Reverend Thoma’s skill at weaving personal stories with creative, witty descriptors of whiskies is unparalleled. He is always on point and brutally honest. A must read for all us whisky geeks.”

LINDA L. PETERSON
Author of Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations
dramgoodwhiskylady.wordpress.com

“Reverend Thoma has a way with words and whisk(e)y. From T.S. Eliot to UFOs, he eloquently and methodically tears apart the taboo of liqueur and religion. With wit, wisdom, and perfectly placed humor he carries the reader along on an unforgettable journey which is best experienced with a glass of fine Scotch.”

JOSHUA CASE
tippleandtext.wordpress.com

The Angels’ Portion: A Clergyman’s Whisky Narrative

sc-crusade1-ARC-smallAuthor: Rev Christopher I. Thoma
$15.99; 348 pages, 6 x 9 TPB
$9.99; digital edition
The Angels’ Portion Facebook Page

Please consider ordering this book from your local bookshop, and posting a review. Why…?

SIGNED EDITIONS are available — $15.99 (+ $3.45 S&H)

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Did you know that Darth Vader prefers Lagavulin? Were you aware that Santa Claus keeps a bottle of Caol Ila on the shelf? Have you heard that Scoresby was squeezed from the very veins of the Devil himself? Emerging from the mind of a surprising whisky connoisseur, The Angels’ Portion is a substantial assortment of whisky reviews like none you’ve ever read before. By means of storytelling, and with charming wit and vibrant style, Reverend Christopher I. Thoma shepherds the reader toward a divine insight: If you don’t like whisky, it may only be because you haven’t danced with the right bottle.

What People are saying about The Angels’ Portion

51P-cV5JjpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“The Reverend Christopher I. Thoma admits that not everyone thinks whisky and the clergy go hand in hand. The Angel’s Portion should satisfy those doubting Thomases. In it, he weaves theology, poetry and good conversation for a quenching narrative, whether you’re thirsty for a great whisky recommendation or just some friendly companionship as you curl up with your favorite tumbler. As a pastor with an astute palate, Thoma’s whisky reviews are truly divine.”

– Chantal Martineau, author of HOW THE GRINGOS STOLE TEQUILA, The Modern Age of Mexico’s Most Traditional Spirit. You may visit Chantal Martineau at www.chantalmartineau.com.

215_1_TheSinEater(1)“Pastor Thoma knows his spirits – from the cloud of witnesses to these mighty whiskies. The Angels’ Portion is a kind of tithe – a tax we pay on the time it takes to get things right. And though I haven’t had a drop in years (it got to where I spilled too much…) this whiff of those hovering uraeuses – the tongues of fire — these holy ghosts are happily haunting. Praise be!”

– Thomas Lynch, author of THE SIN EATER, THE UNDERTAKING, and many others. You may visit Thomas Lynch at www.thomaslynch.com.

“This was the most entertaining ‘review’ I’ve ever read. It was an entire book of reviews. On whiskey. By a Lutheran minister. The indexing of them is outstanding, they are listed by name so one doesn’t need to thumb thru the entire book to find the one they want. The book is laid out like an anthology, with each whiskey having it’s own entertaining chapter (really, anywhere from a couple to a few pages per chapter). The first one was a space alien, hiding his stash from human searchers on his home planet. Fantastic. Funny. I liked it. A lot!” – S. Burton

“This is a very fun, engaging, quirky book. I’m not really into whiskey, or whisky. Yet his writing style has held my attention. Buy this book, but don’t let it age on your shelf for over 12 years before reading. This book comes out of the barrel ready to drink.” – Rufus123

“The book you pick up for the reviews, but leave with renewed faith… You will be surprised to find a lot of Pastor’s faith, life, and living antidotes throughout the book. You will enjoy his humor, and sometimes his seriousness as he reviews the many Scotch whisky’s he has slowly, and with moderation, enjoyed and reviewed. Cost causes one to savor things with great care! You will get to know pastor Thoma very well after reading this book… You will enjoy this book!” – Kurt

Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor

sc-crusade1-ARC-smallAuthor: Rev Christopher I. Thoma
$14.99; 102 pages, 6 x 9 TPB
$5.99; digital edition

Please consider ordering this book from your local bookshop, and posting a review. Why…?

SIGNED EDITIONS are available — $14.99 (+ $2.35 S&H)

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A collection of stories, Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor peeks behind the curtain and shines a light into what has become for so many in pastoral ministry a very dark place. From abusive members to impossible schedules often resulting in failing health and family decay, Ten Ways presents church-goers with an opportunity for personal reflection as well as gives voice to the often undetectable “hurts” lurking behind the pastor’s smile.

What People are saying about Ten Ways

“Sharing experiences is important. The sharing of experience isn’t to stop. And while seminary courses, field work, and vicarage assignments all serve important roles in forming pastors for dealing with people, Chris Thoma brings together and shares the often unteachable experiences in Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor. A Lutheran minister, Thoma faces off with ten troubling situations that often confront pastors and their families, and he does so through easy to read vignettes. Each is presented so vividly that the reader—whether pastor, spouse, or layperson—will ask silently, ‘How is it that he knows me so well?’ They are incredibly real and reflect life in the ministry from a very important perspective. Each chapter being a mirror of a pastor’s soul, I highly recommend this as a resource to be studied and discussed by pastors and laypeople alike. The Lutheran Confessions speak of the ‘mutual consolation of the brethren.’ Thoma has provided a place where the need for that consolation can be identified and the effort begun.”

REV. DR. DAVID P. SCAER
Chairman of the Systematics Department
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Author of Discourses in Matthew, James: The Apostle of Faith, and three volumes in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series

“This little tome from Thoma is a must-read for church members, church councils, boards of elders, and, most definitely, every call committee and district president. Our pastors are doing good work, they love their people, but we can do a better, a much better job, of caring for them. And, the least we can do, if we love them, or if not them, the Lord who sent them, is to see the thing from their perspective.” (Read more…)

REV. DR. PETER J. SCAER
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

“This book provides a real and gritty depiction of the pastoral ministry. Pastor Thoma does a great service to the church by exposing the abuses that many pastors often endure while presenting the ever present comfort of Christ Jesus. There is tremendous comfort—even in the midst of tremendous pain—knowing that God is not at war with His people.”

REV. A. TREVOR SUTTON
Pastor of Saint Luke Lutheran Church
Haslett, Michigan
Author of Being Lutheran and Why Should I Trust the Bible?

“It is difficult for many church members to fully understand the demands of pastoral ministry. Chris Thoma helps by presenting ten high-stress scenarios caused by congregations that have the potential for destroying pastors.”

KENT CROCKETT
President, Making Life Count Ministries, Inc.
Author of Pastor Abusers: When Sheep Attack their Shepherd

“A defibrillator that delivers a therapeutic jolt of truth straight to the Christian heart!”

REV. TYREL BRAMWELL
Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church & School
Murray, Utah
Author of The Gift and the Defender