Ministry by the Book: New Testament Patterns for Pastoral Leadership by Derek Tidball provides what is in essence a New Testament biblical theology of pastoral ministry. Tidball in this work provides a valuable resource for all ministers in unfolding how ministry is presented in the New Testament.
Tidball explores the Gospels and Acts in the first five chapters of this work, arguing convincingly that there are clear intended implications for pastoral ministry in these works. Tidball engages and corrects those who would argue that certain gospel writers had nothing to say about the church as an entity or pastoral ministry. When I initially saw that he was going to address Paul’s writings in only three chapters I had concerns over how it could be done. Those concerns were removed in the way Tidball demonstrates how Paul’s ministry develops as the church ages, showing unique needs in ministry depending upon the age of a church. In the closing chapters of the book addresses the General Epistles and Revelation closing with a chapter drawing out some implications of this work for the ministers, the church, and denominations today.
Many works on pastoral ministry start with a predetermined view of pastoral ministry and seek to buttress that view with Scripture. Tidball, however, begins with Scripture and allows it to serve as the foundation for an understanding of pastoral ministry. Tidball argues for a flexible understanding of ministry and the role of the minister, recognizing from Scripture that different times and needs will require different approaches and gifting. Tidball does provide a caveat though in stating, “A model that is hierarchical, authoritarian, abusive, singular or exalts personality, or any model that exalts tasks to the exclusion of relationship, or growth to the exclusion of truth, would not be legitimate (238).” In light of many of the problems found in evangelicalism this is a needed reminder.
Finally this book should serve as a challenge to all those in ministry. Speaking as a pastor we are often terrible at assessing ourselves and our contexts. This book invites those who serve to assess themselves and their contexts. Tidball invites the reader to answer for themselves their calling, gifting, passions, and model of ministry while at the same time asking what the needs, threats, and opportunities of the local ministry are. Tidball states, “Bringing the answers to these two sets of questions together, by asking ‘Do I, with my particular gifts, fit this situation?’ should provide us with a clear indication of whether we are the right person to minister in this local church at this time or whether we are best to serve elsewhere (241).”
This book provides something not often found in books on pastoral ministry. It invites ministers to find where and how they fit in light of the types of ministry in the New Testament rather than forcing them into a one size fits all mold. I would say it should be required reading for any pastor.
Disclosure: I received this book free from InterVarsity Press for review purposes. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.