“Hockey can be a tough game. People can get hurt. I vividly remember getting hurt in a school hockey match – blood was streaming from my mouth and the pain was intense – but the headmaster who was refereeing the match simply shouted to me ‘Play on Beasley-Murray, play on!’, and play on I did.
Ministry too can be tough. People can get hurt. Most ministers go through at least one bad patch in their ministry. Indeed, for me the first seven years of my ministry at Chelmsford were pretty lean – whereas in my first church in Altrincham everything I had touched seemed to turn to gold and as a consequence the church turned round and began to grow, in Chelmsford everything I touched seemed to turn to dust and the church continued to decline. It was tempting to give up, particularly when there was misunderstanding and even rejection. In that context, however, somebody simply shouting ‘Live out your call, Beasley-Murray’ would not have helped. I needed people around me to help me live out the call.”
These are the opening words of Living Out the Call, a guide to ministry for both seasoned pastors as also those about to begin in ministry. My initial intention was to produce just one book. However, my enthusiasm for ministry ran away with itself, so that in the end it became necessary to publish Living out the Call in four volumes, which in total came to over 243,000 words, and are now available on Amazon at £2.25 per book – or £9 for the set – a bargain!
It’s difficult to sum up Living Out the Call in a few words. The first volume, Living for God’s Glory, tackles the themes of professionalism and spirituality, arguing that pursuit of professionalism in ministry is a form of spirituality. Leading God’s People deals with issues relating to leadership, such as vision and passion, maintaining that the team leader must also be a team-player; it also deals with the challenges of managing people and ourselves. Reaching Out to God’s World brings together effective preaching with the Gospel in view and leading a missionary congregation through developing a wide variety of appropriate strategies. Serving God’s People has a particular focus on the relationship between new rites of passage and the exercise of pastoral care. These books combine theological reflection with practice, and are packed with insights and suggestions, recognising that there is no one pattern of ministry.
Living Out the Call is in many ways the most important of all my writings. If you go to the Amazon site, you will see that on all four books there is an image of a baton being passed on. I have deliberately chosen this image because through the writing of Living out the Call I see myself passing on what I have learnt to younger generations in the hope that this will make them even more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.
Yes, I am excited by the potential of Living out the Call. I dare to believe that my insights into ministry have a relevance way beyond the UK. Indeed, the immediate inspiration for the book was invitations in 2014 and 2015 to teach Master’s courses in ministry at Laidlaw College in Auckland, New Zealand; at Colombo Theological Seminary in Sri Lanka; and Vose Seminary in Perth, Western Australia – and some of the material I taught in 2010 and 2013 at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon.
Yet along with my excitement there is apprehension too. After a life-time of publishing conventionally, I have gone into electronic publishing. Now, without the aid of a marketing department, it is down to me to make these books known. In this respect I am hopeful that many subscribers to my blog will want to download all four books on to their Kindles. But please don’t leave it at that. Let others know too – perhaps by forwarding this blog to them!
But is it really worth publicising, you might ask? Let me quote Brian Harris, the Principal of Vose Seminary (the former Baptist Theological College of Western Australia):
Living Out the Call is an impressive four volume collation of insights gained from 43 years of ministry. Clearly written, each volume is perceptive, warm, enthusiastic and motivating. Its sweep is truly impressive, as is its contemporary relevance. Coming at the end of a successful ministry I worried that it might lapse into sentiment and nostalgia. It doesn’t. Informed by the past, it has a clear eye towards both the present and the future. It deserves to be widely read both by those entering ministry, and those who need a reminder of what it means to live out the call.
David Coffey, a former President of the Baptist World Alliance is equally enthusiastic:
This is unquestionably an Aladdin’s cave of treasures for a life time of ministry. It is rich in foot notes, biblical expositions and choice quotes… Paul, this is your magnum opus! An A-Z of ministry. It’s not a ‘one sitting read’ but an anthology to be regularly consulted.
Derek Tidball, a former Principal of the London School of Theology and a writer of many books on Christian ministry, wrote:
Paul Beasley-Murray has distilled immense reading, judicious reflection and long personal experience into a work that covers the essential aspects of ministry in a lively way and yet which is grounded in day-to-day realities. While the reader may feel that not all immediately applies, or even that they agree with it all, this work is certainly worth both reading and then keeping to hand to serve as an indispensable reference point. This is the most comprehensive practical introduction to ministry currently available.
Mike Thornton, the Chair of the Ministerial Recognition Committee of the London Baptist Association, was also keen to commend it:
Having known the author for over 20 years and experienced pastoral life with him, I can affirm that these books come from a life given to passionately exercising pastoral ministry and seeking to constantly learn and grow in that practise. The sharing of that journey with a wider audience is a gift to the church.
This then is this week’s blog. It is a blog with a difference. For instead of seeking to bless with some reflection on church life, I am seeking your help with a view to your blessing others. Incidentally, please note that if you do download the books, you could always make a brief comment on the Amazon site, which in turn could encourage others to buy and read Living Out the Call!