Collection of essays can enhance ministry skills
The book Like a Shepherd Lead Us is a collection of essays written for the purpose of enhancing the ministry skills of those who shepherd the church. My goal in this review is to give you a heads-up on what to expect from this book so that you can make a decision about whether the book will meet your needs.
If you are expecting a thorough biblical review of why the church is to have elders, their qualifications, insights on how to organize a church with church leaders and a strict application of biblical material to church leaders today, then you will be disappointed in this book.
On the other hand, if you would like some general insight on ministry, prayer, and devotion, as well as how all of this might relate to the ministry of elders in the church today, then the book should be beneficial.
For me, David Wray’s chapter (“The Heart of a Shepherd”) was the most helpful. This chapter would be especially good for new elders who are a little apprehensive of taking on such a noble ministry as that of a shepherd of the church. Wray gives what I believe to be the central focus of this ministry: “As elders transition to shepherds they learn to spiritually form as well as inform their flock” (p. 56).
The forming is based on Paul’s statement, “…for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
This spiritual forming, and the role of informing (communicating and teaching), should never be forgotten by elders as their goal of ministry as shepherds.
Another important point for new elders is made by Mark Love in his chapter (“Pastoral Prayer”): “A transparent presence enables those who experience our care to see through us to God, the true source of our soul’s healing” (p. 37).
Those who are apprehensive about their worthiness or ability to serve should always remember that we are just a tool in God’s tool box; that is, the power is not in us as leaders, but in God’s power to use us in his service.
I like to point out to those who are new at service that God delights in using people of limited abilities to do his will — we might call them God’s nobodies.
Paul says “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 29). The point is this: it is God’s presence that allows the soul’s healing in ministry, it is not about us.
The chapter by Randy Harris (“Spirituality for the Busy, Frantic and Overwhelmed”) encourages leaders to take time for spiritual development. One suggestion he makes is to spend more time in prayer for the church and various aspects of ministry. This requires leaders to focus on ministry in their prayers and constantly ask for God’s help. In helping leaders to become more effective at this, Harris discusses the difference between talking at God, which describes rote prayer, and talking to God, which describes our communicating the needs of ministry to God.
At some point, a leader must discover that rote prayers are not sufficient when praying for the church. The final prayer stage is to listen to God, which is opening one’s self up to receiving the wisdom of God: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
This does not happen as a result of direct revelation, or hearing a voice. In my own experience, it happens when I utilize the wisdom found in the totality of Scripture to influence ministry decisions.
The Bible says: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalms 119:18). This requires much more than just a diligent search of Scripture, but also a constant self-examination and application of Scripture to ministry.
In my opinion, the chapters by Rubel Shelly (“I Was Sick, and You Looked After Me”) and Greg Stevenson (“The Church Goes to the Movies”) belong to a different book.
Shelly does a fine job discussing the problem of evil in a practical and relevant way, and if someone struggles with understanding why it is that good people sometimes get sick and die, then this is a must read.
Stevenson’s chapter addresses trends in popular culture, and especially how they relate to understanding.
His point is that the tension between culture and Christianity is nothing new and has existed in one form or another since biblical times.
Randy Lowry does a good job in his chapter on conflict resolution (“Before We Split”), but I would like to see more examples of how this could be applied in our fellowship today. For example, how do you mediate a conflict where a crucial issue of theology is at stake?
Finally, three of the authors in this book mention the anointing of oil as a ministry for elders today (James 5:14) but do not clarify what they mean by this.
James 5:14 is a difficult text with many interpretations and I am not at all sure that elders should be daubing oil on sick people today.
I admit that I don’t have all the answers regarding the interpretation of this text, but I wish at least one of the authors had provided me with a biblical defense of whatever it is he believes elders should be doing today relative to James 5:14.
J.B. MYERS ministers for the Bright Angel Church of Christ, Las Vegas, and consults with churches to help them better organize with elders and deacons.
June 1, 2006