Overall, Andrew Purves,The Crucifixion of Ministry , is a profound theological exploration of the significance of the vicarious humanity of Christ and our union with Christ for pastoral ministry. There is much that I like about this; very much. But, I’ve got two nagging issues.
The book is loaded with overstatements, but I can get over that as a rhetorical style.
1. This approach to ministry, regardless of how theologically astute, is not the emphasis of the NT when “ministry” is actually in view of the authors in the NT. Jesus routinely told people to go do things and he did not always say “you won’t be doing this, I will be doing this and you are to participate in me.” Paul doesn’t emphasize this either. Yes, I think this idea does crop up now and again; what the emphasis of the NT statements on ministry does not permit is the constant pushing back against the commands to “do” — which seems to be the focus of Purves. What we find is command to “go” and “to you has been given the ministry of reconciliation” and gifts are “given to you” and a lot of commands to ministers to do things.
Do I think knowing we are participating in the ministry of Christ is good for our ministries? I sure do. But we need both the theological realization that God is at work and we join in his redemptive work and the ears to hear the call to do the work of ministry as God equips us to do that ministry.
Take, for instance, a few minutes with Matthew 10 (a ministry passage if there ever was one); or 1-2 Timothy and Titus and notice how often “ministers” are told “to do” things. I’m impressed, in fact, with how often Paul “commands” (using imperatives) Timothy and Titus what to do … and he doesn’t even mention discerning the ministry of Christ at work, etc.. Not that I don’t this our union with Christ has theological implication for ministry. What I mean is that the emphasis of Purves is not the emphasis of the biblical authors. Why?
2. For a book on pastoral ministries, it alarms me that Purves never once quotes the Pastoral Epistles in the whole book. The great section of pastoral ministry in 2 Cor 2:12-7:16 is ignored. Nothing from Peter’s statements about ministry in 1 Peter 5. In other words, this is a theological perception of ministry drawn from two theological doctrines rather than a biblical exposition of concrete pastoral theology passages.
I’d like to see more from these passages — only then I can be convinced.
Now a bit harder for me to say: for a book so given to critiquing the demand emphasis of ministry, this book has lots of musts and shoulds and command-like utterances. Since the NT is filled with such statements when it comes to ministers (1 Tim 3-4), I can accept it from him too!