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The Advent of Crucifixion 1

posted by xscot mcknight

It is almost Advent so that means it is time to think about the Good Friday. An odd statement, you might say to yourself, especially if you are a pastor. But in Andrew Purves’s new book, The Crucifixion of Ministry, we are given a tour into the kind of ministry that lasts, a kind of ministry where we surrender our ambitions to the service of Christ.
We’ve posted before about burnout, but how many of us have had to learn this lesson about putting to death the self at the center of ministry?
This book is good news. It is the good news that self-denial, even of our ministries, is the way to be raised into the power of God’s Spirit. Andrew Purves is a professor of pastoral theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and this book is intended for “busy, tired, somewhat depressed, midcareer and fed-up ministers who can’t carry the load of ministry any longer” (11).
Either Jesus is nothing more than a continuing moral influence and ministry is all up to us or Jesus is God active in the life in the world. If the latter, the issue is not “how does Jesus get in on our ministries?” but “What is he up to, and how do I hitch a ride on whatever he is up to?”
“The first and central question in thinking about ministry is Who is Jesus Christ and what is he up to?” (13) The second question is “How do we get in on Jesus’ ministry?” (13).
We must be displaced and that means the death of our ministries. That is, Purves is calling for the crucifixion of ministry. Self-denial and death with Christ in baptism and dying with Christ includes our ministry.
One word sums up what this book is designed to address: burnout that derives from ambition, the kind of ambition that has too much self in it, the kind of ambition that doesn’t let us rest even for a minute.
“Ministry,” he says, “is just not much fun anymore….. We are tired, often overworked, usually overstressed and underpaid, theologically confused, often ill-educated for the tasks before us, bored and probably guilty for feeling that way”! (18). He speaks of a flawed educational process and critiques the dilution of christology in mainline seminaries.
Jesus is the answer. This books develops the “vicarious humanity and ministry of Jesus Christ” (20). Join us as we go through this book chp by chp on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Even more, pastors, speak up and shed some light on the important topics of this book.



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James Petticrew

posted November 15, 2007 at 2:33 am


This looks good. My ministry was deeply and profoudly impacted by Steve Seamands Ministry in the Image of God. The class he taught on my doctoral programme at Asbury on the material taught me what true theology was.
Books on leadership are important but to me works of theology like this one and Steve’s are fundamental to ministry.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 15, 2007 at 5:38 am


I’m again, not a pastor. But I believe our lives are full time for the Lord, or supposed to be. This resonates with me and I so much agree with the thoughts expressed here. If it’s not us, but Christ living in us, then how will we burn out? And how will we think all depends on us?



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Diane

posted November 15, 2007 at 6:44 am


This sounds very much, on the surface, like Blackaby’s “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” That’s the ultimate decentering of self book: the whole point is that you join God in his work all around you, rather than deciding what you will do for God and expecting him to join you. The focus shifts from you to God. If this books works from the same premise, as it seems to, I will be interested in how it addresses pastor burnout.



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Bob Brague

posted November 15, 2007 at 7:28 am


I’m not a pastor either, but I have always loved what Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission in the nineteenth century, said. In the early years of his ministry he had prayed, “Lord, help me to do my work.” Midway through his career his prayer had changed to “Lord, help me to to Thy work.” And as a missionary with many years behind him his prayer finally became, “Lord, do Thy work through me.”



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted November 15, 2007 at 7:35 am


As someone going through the unpleasantness of ministry burn out, this certainly has caught my attention. I look forward to reading more. Thanks Scot.
Peace,
Jamie



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J-Marie

posted November 15, 2007 at 8:37 am


I hope you will be writing and Advent series again this season!



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preacherman

posted November 15, 2007 at 8:38 am


When we do acts of service whether it be meeting a need such a meal, paying an electric bill, gas bill, water bill, buying dipers for a single mother who can’t make it until the end of the month, when we fill up someones car, when as a family when we meet a homeless man holding a sign and we meet a need of a simple offer of money, or more than that bring him a hot cup of joe from starbucks. When we take someone to a homeless shelter for the night or more than that are willing to offer our own to pay a hotel for the night, or home. When we meeet needs we are living out the gosple of Jesus Christ and when we live out the gospel of Jesus Christ people are never the same again. We have be sincer though. We must do it with a guine heart. We must not ask question of judgementalism or expect things in return. When I minister to the people in my community I don’t say, to the single mother in need, “What happened to your food stamps?” “WIC”? No, no questions ask and no string attatched. I offer it willing and freely. Like Christ did his own life. I don’t say, “I expect to see you on Sunday.” I hope a seed of grace has been planted.
Notice who’s Jesus annonting is for in Luke 4.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to (preach to the suburbs and rich? No) to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, and to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.” Luke 4:18-19 NIV
I think we have missed that brother and sisters who are ministers. What are the major of our churches made of? What churches are being built in the quickest area’s? Do we judge those who come in asking for help? Do we expect them do something for us? Or do we give freely like Christ? Are we doing what Jesus did in Luke? What his mission as all about? What lives did he change the most?



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Dan Brennan

posted November 15, 2007 at 9:10 am


Scot,
I don’t have the book, but I did a lengthy quick (can I say those two words together?)read at the book store and thought it was a good, solid perspective for all who are in ministry.



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T

posted November 15, 2007 at 10:05 am


Scot,
This sounds good. But, of course, he’s highlighting the flawed way to do any work at all. Pastoring this way is more ironic but no more flawed than any other work. On re-reading your summary, I substituted “business” for “ministry” and it was the book I’ve been looking for for years. Does such a substitution work in the book itself or just your (initial) summary? That will likely make or break whether I buy it.



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Bob Smallman

posted November 15, 2007 at 11:05 am


I instantly connected with the book’s title a few weeks ago and am about 2/3 of the way through (it’s not a difficult read, but it’s my “when-I’m-sitting-in-a-waiting-room-book!”).
This is a superb book, especially for younger pastors who are tying to juggle the realities of ministry with its demands (and with the unrealistic expectations both of us and our parishioners). It is gratifyingly theological in character (so it’s not another “Leadership Magazine” piece), and yet that’s what makes it so useful at the same time.
Too often we misinterpret the struggles of ministry as failure — when, in fact, the struggles are often markers that we are actually doing the kinds of ministry we should be. I have used the expression, “Ministry is suffering,” to describe this process of taking our cross and following Jesus as He commanded us to do. But Purves’s “The Crucifixion of Ministry” is more Biblical and less open to misunderstanding.



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Jim Martin

posted November 15, 2007 at 2:05 pm


Scot,
I just finished this book a few days ago. I purchased the book as I was intrigued by the title. I was not disappointed. The book caused me to think about ministry and in particular, the way I do ministry.
It is a call to surrender self-ambition. Maybe just as important, it is an invitation to look at ministry afresh and to think about a way to come at this much differently.
Besides the problem of self ambition that can get in the way, the book might be helpful in helping to think through some of the congregational systems that some of us are caught up in.
Some have experienced church systems and settings which are meat grinders. We wake up two years after beginning a ministry in a place like that and then wonder what in the world happened.
This book can be helpful in re-thinking ministry. Perhaps it might help in rethinking it before burnout or other consequences emerge.
Anyway, I look forward to the discussion.



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BeckyR

posted November 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm


We’re in a house church, without a person considered a leader and definitely no pastor or a person considered in that role. But we all are expected to make what the church is; we all are expected to bring to the body what God has given us to bring. In that way, all of us are the ministers/pastors. The house church has existed for 31 yrs, we’ve been in it 30 yrs. Ok, all that as a preface.
We have gone through many morfs, that is, who comes that we minister to; how we run the service; understanding what we are as a body; maturing in Christ and age and how that impacts the nature of our meetings.
We have questioned if God still wants us to be together as a body or if we were meant to be there for a bit of time and now is time to disband. I think we always are asking that, ready to hear from God about it.
One thing we’ve learned is we must wait. We must wait to hear from God. I think in our age of instant self-gratification, or perhaps better said – we want to hear what we want to hear in a framework comfortable for us, we don’t know what to do if the answer doesn’t come quickly or we make our own conclusions if the answer doesn’t come quickly. My underlined, capital, strongly emphasized point is the need to wait. When the number of people in our church is small it may be easy to conclude God no longer intends for us to exist as a body. But we must ask God and wait. And wait, and wait.
So, 2 things there. We’ve learned that numbers don’t define what God wants and we’ve learned we must wait to hear from God what he wants. It has been a hard lesson to learn when we want things our way. As one person in our group puts it – he had to learn to stop being the Bull in the China Shop. That is, for things to go my way my way my way.



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David Morgan

posted November 15, 2007 at 10:23 pm


Ok Scott,
You keep reviewing books on my Amazon wishlist. And it only makes me want to read them more.
I look forward to seeing the rest of the review and others in future.



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Dianne P

posted November 15, 2007 at 11:56 pm


Becky R,
Your house church reminds me of a Quaker/Friends meeting that we attended 20 years ago. It was an amazing experience – nothing like it since. I wish that we had that experience again. Enjoy the blessing!
I have 2 comments on burn-out.
First, as a retired emergency room nurse, I’ve met a lot of burn-out, both in myself and others. I’m in total agreement w/ #3 and 4. ?Lord, do Thy work through me.? That is what I used to pray while driving on my way to my shift for the day. The challenge was living that out throughout the shift (and into overtime).
Second, I think that this whole issue applies to both paid and lay/volunteer ministry. For me, I’ve noticed that burn-out starts when I take on ministries that do NOT involve working into the gifts with which God has blessed me. I can do lots of ministry that involve teaching and mercy, and I am energized for more. But when I try to take on administrative stuff… ugly burnout quickly ensues.



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Keith

posted November 16, 2007 at 5:09 pm


I studied under Dr. Purves at PTS, and have ordered the book. I’m looking forward to your take on it. Blessings!



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Jason Barr

posted November 20, 2007 at 8:42 pm


Looks like a promising beginning.
I was especially pleased to see the connection between burnout and the “ministry is up to us or God is working in the world?” question. I wonder sometimes… I think the tendency is basic to the human condition, but I wonder how much the “ministry is up to us” mentality is influenced by modernity’s conception of the human being as homo autonomous and the modern attempt to replace the glory of God with the “glory” of humankind.
I don’t know enough (especially not first-hand) about present-day seminary culture to comment on the dilution of Christology in the mainline seminaries, but it makes sense as a concept. I think we should see as quite related to that (what I perceive as) a generally weak ecclesiology in our churches (which probably translates to the seminaries as well). The discussion of Christology seems largely to have been reduced to trying to ascertain proper intellectual doctrines of Christ’s nature (and I tend to agree with Weaver in The Nonviolent Atonement that we can at least in large part trace it back to the integration of church and empire) rather than discussing how Christ makes himself available to us through incarnation and by participation and union with him in the atonement. If our ideas about Christology led to us understanding that we participate in Christ, then surely our ecclesiology would be strengthened as well – and if we better understood the church as participating in Christ I think that would also help us to see our ministry initiatives as trying to tap into the work God is doing in the world, rather than asking him to come along with our work.
T, you said:
But, of course, he?s highlighting the flawed way to do any work at all. Pastoring this way is more ironic but no more flawed than any other work.
I find myself wondering if the reason you can say this is related to the thought that we’ve generally divorced the idea of “ministry” from the question of vocation. I think if we started with the idea that everything a Christian, as one who participates in Christ, we would be less likely to make that mistake.



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