This book proved to be a most enjoyable and insightful read of internationally acclaimed evangelical leader Andrew Murray of the C19 and early C20. It is written as a novel, which allowed the author to seamlessly weave in historical facts through a well-crafted dialogue.
It is an excellent coverage of Andrew Murray's triumphs and struggles during the first year of his ministry.
Although written in novel form, the author Olea Nel assures the reader, via an introductory note, that the portrayal of the main events are factual, being based on Andrew Murray's letters and early biographies.
Set in South Africa in the mid-nineteenth century
The story unfolds during a tumultuous period in South African history, and spans approximately twenty-one months between November 1848 and July 1850. Andrew Murray has just returned home after spending seven years in Scotland and a further three in Utrecht, where he gained his theological degree.
But unlike his brother John, who is appointed to an established congregation on the Eastern Frontier, Andrew finds himself in the wilds of Africa as the only pastor to over 20,000 Boers beyond the borders of the Cape.
Being only twenty-one and inexperienced in African ways, he bungles his way through the first few months of ministry. And like many-a-young Christian who finds themselves thrust into a leadership position before they are ready, he too falls into the traps of pride and self-aggrandizement, which threaten to curtail his spiritual growth.
Andrew Murray at twenty-one
It would be true to say that most Christians today know Andrew Murray (1828-1917) as one of the most inspired devotional writers of the modern era. About fifty of his books are still in print, and can be purchased in multiple editions.
But we do well to remember that these works were written by the mature Andrew Murray, whom we consider one of the giants of the faith.
But what about the young Andrew Murray at twenty-one? What was he like? And what were his temptations and struggles?
This is where this novel comes into its own. It enables us to share Andrew's journey, to perceive the world as he did, and to become aware of his inmost thoughts as he braved the challenges of pastoral ministry in a colonial world where he was forced to walk a tightrope between Boer and Brit.
The first novel in a trilogy
The author cleverly opens the novel with a prologue to introduce us to an ageing Andrew Murray at his spiritual peak; and closes the story with an epilogue that enables him to comment on his spiritual journey thus far. We are therefore left in no doubt that there will be worldly triumphs and spiritual pitfalls along the road ahead.
I think Olea Nel has done the Christian world a great service in endeavoring to explore Andrew Murray's spiritual journey with a view to discerning how he became one of the great heroes of the Christian faith.
I therefore strongly recommend this book to all Christians and historians alike, and eagerly await novel two in her proposed trilogy.
'Andrew Murray Destined to Serve: A Biographical Novel' is available from Amazon
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html