Monday, 10 September 2012

MINISTRY IN THREE DIMENSIONS: Ordination and Leadership in the Local Church by Steven Croft

I found Steven Croft’s book on leadership both informative and challenging. Though perhaps primarily written with a view for those in the Anglican tradition it is also relevant for those interested in the ordained ministry in the wider Church.

Evangelicals will enjoy it because it is thoroughly biblical and examines several key passages on leadership as well as exploring leadership throughout the history of the Church. Croft also scrutinises secular management/leadership models and argues for the New Testament model of diakonia, the servant ( one who is prepared to serve behind the scenes etc.), presbyteros, the elder ( the minister of the word and the sacraments), and episcope (the visionary, Shepherd and enabler). Croft deals thoroughly with each of these three ‘dimensions’ of leadership in the church by first building on diakonia and arguing that this is the foundation of all the others, and that though one becomes an presbyteros or episcope, ‘The root of diakonia is in every sense the foundation of all ministry which is truly Christian, including the exercise of leadership’. This might be contrasted to the ‘New Calvinist’s’ leadership models of prophet, priest and king which precludes the same emphasis on servant leadership.

In Croft’s discussion of diakonia he argues that this in fact is the neglected dimension of the ministry of the ordained, stating that ‘The attitudes and attributes of diakonia need to be acquired before those of the presbyterate or of episcope and are the validation and foundation of the second and third dimensions of ministry’, also that it is ‘the most important .. if ministry and leadership are to be truly Christian and Christ-like’. After looking at diakonia from a biblical perspective Croft then traces its history in tradition and then within the ordained ministry today.

In discussing the dimension of presbyters Croft again looks at it firstly from a biblical perspective and challenges the readers from the good shepherd passage in John’s gospel stating: ‘To be a good shepherd, and by implication a good presbyter involves self sacrifice and the laying down of one’s life’. Presbyters and Priests are then examined within the Christian tradition which also includes an examination of the charge to priests in the alternative service book. In the next two chapters Croft firstly looks at the presbyter’s call to study, preach and catechise and secondly, their call to minister the sacraments, minister through prayer and call to a life of holiness.

The third dimension of ministry, that of episcope, is then discussed in detail. Croft first looks at it from a biblical perspective, then from the perspective of tradition. Croft sees the person exercising episcope as being firstly ‘a focus for the unity of the people of God’, secondly ‘that of enabling, developing and sustaining the ministry of others, and thirdly having ‘the ability to keep watch: over one’s own ministry, over the lives and ministries of others, and over the whole congregation’. In the discussion of the episcope as enabling others, Croft offers many useful applications in the present day Church with regard to shared responsibility, differentiation of tasks and responsibilities (rota and team ministries), gifts and vocations, review, rest and renewal etc.

In his penultimate chapter Croft discusses how this ministry in three dimensions can be balanced without finding ourselves ‘in the wastelands of stress: exhaustion, bad temper, addictive and dependent cycles of behaviour, vulnerability to temptation, ill health and damaged relationships’. He argues the case for having a ‘portfolio approach’ and becoming self aware with regard our danger signals.

The final chapter, ‘Pioneering, Sustaining, and Connecting: Patterns of Ministry in a Mission Shaped Church’ deals with how the Church today tries to engage with the world. Croft specifically addresses the concepts behind ‘Mission shaped Church’, ‘Fresh Expression’ and the role of ordained and lay ministry within it.

This is an excellent book by Steven Croft, the best I have read on the subject. It is highly relevant, informative and challenging as well as being thoroughly biblical. It is also supplemented with a large number of notes, an excellent bibliography and useful appendices.

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