Friday, July 17, 2009

The Crucifixion of Ministry

"Has God killed your ministry yet?" That's a question I never thought I'd hear until I read it in Andrew Purves' book The Crucifixion of Ministry. I recently read this book as part of my first year doctoral residency. But even since then I've found myself picking it up again, and again, and again.

Purves, a professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, calls us in this book to allow our ministries to be crucified in order that Christ's ministry might live. This sort of turning-the-tables on the Church is a bit unexpected at first; after all, Christ was crucified in order that we might live. But Purves posits that it is our ministries that must die in order that Christ's ministry might live. And Purves calls us over and over again to recognize that only Christ's ministry is redemptive and not ours. This is a call to surrender our own ambitions, our own desires, our own personas in ministry to the will of God.

Now, there is of course the temptation then to minimize the presence and role of the Church; to say that there's no point in us even doing ministry if our ministry isn't redemptive. And if we take it that far we've missed Purves' point in an altogether different way. He calls us, not to disengage from redemptive ministry, but to engage in the redemptive ministry of Christ. This means we are to be disengaging from "our" ministries and engaging in His. We are called to participate, then, in the redemptive ministry of Christ.

Here's an excerpt from the first chapter:
"I call the process of displacement 'the crucifixion of ministry' because in Christian thought the crucifixion carries the concept of redemption. The crucifixion of Jesus is staggering good news of our salvation. The crucifixion of ministry by the process of painful displacement by the ministry of Jesus is staggering good news for ministers and for the people among whom we minister. The crucifixion of ministry is the ground for the redemption of our ministries. For us, the ministers, it is the source of hope, joy and peace in our service."

As I find myself coming back to this book so frequently, I recommend it now to you. Whether you're a pastor, youth pastor, lay person, or missionary, we all can benefit from renewed call to crucify our ministries. You can pick it up here.

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