The Joy of Ministry (part 1)

I am seldom eager to read another new book on ministry; thankfully The Joy of Ministry (WJK, 2008) is no ordinary offering (many thanks to WJK for a review copy).

This is not a how-to book on ministry. Nor is it a book that seeks to improve one’s mood or to offer inspirational nuggets of pastoral ministry. Rather, this book seeks to reflect on the beauty of the church’s theological task and the joy of the church’s ministry (p. 1)

Rooted in the writings of Karl Barth and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Thomas Currie III reminds readers that ministry is not properly thought about in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ but in terms of ‘the gift and the task of pointing to Jesus Christ…its sheer existence is a gift of an ongoing miracle whose grace is both relentlessly embarrassing and surprisingly joyful.’

We have forgotten that joy is found not in busyness but in dependence; we do not find joy, but are found by joy in Jesus Christ. ‘We have grown busy but not joyful’, warns Currie, and in the midst of our churchly busyness the joy of the gospel that is ours in Jesus Christ remains ‘frustratingly elusive and oddly inarticulate’.

The joy of the gospel is that ‘deep confidence’, even ‘astonished laughter’, attending the discovery that there is One at work in our world ‘more central to our stories than we are to ourselves’. ‘Joy is the great gift of the gospel’ he urges,

but it is a gift that, like manna, cannot be turned into a commodity, something that can be bought or sold, or stored up for use of our own purposes. It remains ever a gift, for as we seek to make use of joy rather than receive it, we surely lose it, much as Jesus reminds us of the strange commodity of God’s grace, that as we seek to save our own lives we most surely lose it’ (p. 14).

Over the next few weeks we will walk through this surprisingly refreshing little book on the church’s unglamorous work of pointing to the extraordinary joy of the Gospel. And along the way we might pose to ourselves some difficult questions like, ‘Why is our own churchly labor so unjoyful?’

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3 thoughts on “The Joy of Ministry (part 1)

  1. Kent, I don’t know about others who have gone through this kind of transition in ministry, but in my case I had to “give up ministry” before “ministry found me”—and with it, joy.

  2. Thanks Kent. This is a great reminder that God acts upon us just as much as we think we are the main player in this drama. I am officiating at a funeral today of Ashley’s grandfather – your post has definitely helped me to get my heart in the right place. I can’t force me heart to be in communion with God, but I can stop and open my heart up to a God who is actively engaged in communing with my heart. Your post is very timely – a big thank you as always for your encouraging words.

  3. I’m a friend of James and I regularly check into this site. I’m particularly grateful that you drew my attention to this book, The Joy of Ministry. I had not heard of Currie before. Prior to reading this, I read “Ambushed by Grace: The Virtues of a Useless Faith” simply because of the provocative title. I loved it. A brief and bumbled summary can be found here. I’m now halfway through “The Joy of Ministry” and loving it. It is the right book at the right time for me. Thanks for drawing my attention to it. And thanks for the all intelligent and helpful discourse that goes on at this site.

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