I am excited, for my latest book, This Is My Story: A Story of Life, Faith, and Ministry (ISBN 13: 978-1-5326-4796-3) has just been published by Wipf and Stock of Eugene, Oregon. Written initially with my grand-children in mind, in the first instance it is the story of my life. But it is also a story of how my faith has developed amidst the ups and downs of life. Then at another level it is a story of the making of a leader. While at yet another level it is a story of a ministry in which I have never lost my sense of delight and privilege in my calling to be a minister. And, of course, the book is also an opportunity for me to tell ‘my side of the story’ when my life was marked by disagreement and controversy.
In the hope that I might be able to whet your appetite and so cause you to order a copy whether directly from the publisher or from Amazon or some other supplier, let me quote from the final chapter, ‘Ministry convictions: final reflections’, where I write:
This is my Story is inevitably a very personal tale – it is ‘my story’ – and therefore like no other. True, some may be able to identify with parts of the story, but the overall story is unique – it is peculiar to me. Although we are all called to follow Jesus, the path we take varies from person to person. I am reminded of Peter’s encounter with the Risen Lord, where Jesus calls Peter not just to care for his sheep, but to follow him (John 21:15-19). John tells us that “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved” and “said to Jesus, ‘Lord what about him?’” But Jesus in effect replied, ‘That is none of your business’ – “Follow me”. Jesus has a distinctive plan for each of our lives. The only pattern common to Christian ministry is the pattern of the crucified and risen Lord. Peter’s path, which according to Eusebius led to martyrdom in AD 61, was very different from John’s path, who according to Jerome lived to a great old age and eventually died in his sleep. Woe betide if we seek to emulate others, for the moment that we do so we begin to move away from God’s pattern for our living. The important thing is that we seek to follow Jesus and fulfil his purpose for our lives.
Yet, having recognized that God is not in the business of ‘cloning’, as I look back on my ministry I believe that there are some underlying principles common to ministry in general In particular, I would like to suggest the following four principles:
- Ministry is rooted in the call of God
- Ministry is rooted in the grace of God
- Ministry is rooted in passion for God
- Ministry is tough, but rewarding
After elaborating on these four principles, I conclude:
Ministry can be astoundingly tough, but it can also be immensely rewarding. As Thomas Currie, an American Presbyterian professor of theology, wrote in his introduction to his aptly entitled book, The Joy of Ministry, “The gift [of ministry] and the task of pointing to Jesus Christ. . . is literally filled with wonder, which is not to say that it is filled with exhilaration and euphoria, but that its sheer existence is an ongoing miracle whose grace is both relentlessly embarrassing and surprisingly joyful”. Ministry for me has been an amazing privilege. The good times have far outweighed the difficulties I encountered. I have been surrounded by people who have loved me, encouraged me, supported me, and time and again have been patient with me. I have been undeservedly blessed – and for that I am so grateful.