Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: Liberating Ministry from Success Syndrome

This is an excellent book to read. It has been around since 1987 and reprinted many times. For me it just came yesterday, I started glancing through it, then reading it. I soon found that I could not put it down. I finished it in one day. This book is golden. It is one of those rare books that I dare say it is one that every pastor should read.

If you are in ministry you know well the discouragement it can bring. This book challenges you to take God's view of what success is. It both will lift your soul and challenge you in all the right ways.

Success can be an idol in our culture, most especially in ministry. It is a cruel enslaving master. After Kent and Barbara Hughes spend a few chapters describing their 'dark night of the soul,' in ministry were they felt like failures we are lead on a journey of what caused them to recover and how they learned God's measures of true success. Kent Hughes describes seven measures: (1) Faithfulness; (2) Serving; (3) Loving; (4) Believing; (5) Prayer; (6) Holiness; and (7) Attitude. Each of these is dealt with in a chapter. Then there are five chapters of encouragement (1) from God; (2) from 'the Call] [to ministry]; (3) from the Ordinary; (4) from Fellow Workers; and (5) from the future heavenly reward.

Every pastor can identify with the experiences described in this book but every pastor needs to read the wisdom and instruction from the Hughes.

If you are a lay leader or elder at your church, you should read this book as well. It will give you insight into pastors stresses but it will also give you the tools to ask: "is my measure of success for my pastor the same as God's measures?" 

There is also a helpful chapter for pastor's wives and another chapter for church members. 

This book should not only be read by current pastors, future pastors, pastor's wives but also church members so that they understand a bit of the stress of ministry. They will learn how to evaluate the success of ministry from God's eyes rather than human standards.

I can't recommend this book enough. Five out of five stars.

Excerpt 1:
"Think of it [prayer] this way: our lives are like photographic plates, and prayer is like a time exposure to God. As we expose ourselves to God for a half hour, an hour, perhaps two hours a day, his image is imprinted more and more upon us. More and more we absorb the image of his character, his love, his wisdom, his way of dealing with life and people. As servants of Christ, that is what we need and that is what we receive from him." (pp.72-73)

Excerpt 2:
"Paul summarized the secret of his ministry by referring to the ancient custom of hiding priceless treasure in common earthen, clay pots beneath the earth. The "treasure" was the gospel, and the "jars of clay," a penetrating metaphor for frail humanity. Thus the glorious gospel is committed to common, frail human beings--so that the immensity of the power may be seen as God's and not man's! Clearly then, an awareness of one's weakness, one's ordinariness, can be an asset in the gospel ministry, for such an awareness may more easily depend upon the power of God. Conversely, it can be a disadvantage to be extraordinarily gifted, because one can be tempted to rely upon natural gifts to achieve supernatural ends.
There have been many preachers who, because they were so naturally gifted, never came to be the preachers they could have been. Their reliance upon their natural eloquence fostered a regrettable independence from God in respect to prayer and preparation...Being an ordinary Andrew [the apostle] is not a disadvantage in serving God. It can even serve as the basis for profound dependence upon him and yield extraordinary usefulness in ministry." (pp.137-137)

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