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.