Ever read a book that you wish you had read a long, long time ago? One that would have shaken up your choices years ago, and now you are uncertain how to implement the wisdom you find in the text?
This is my response to Joseph H. Hellerman’s Embracing Shared Ministry. This newer book from Kregel Ministry comes in at 313 pages, and was provided through their blog reviewer program to me.
Books like Embracing Shared Ministry are why I love being involved in book review blogging. I am generally unfamiliar with Dr. Hellerman’s work, so I would have not picked this up without a recommendation.
I am glad to have read it. Embracing Shared Ministry speaks to the need of Christian churches and organizations to decentralize the ministry they are involved in. Hellerman highlights how the Early Church spread those responsibilities across multiple people, and how that strengthened the church.
His work is no mere academic pursuit. The text of Embracing Shared Ministry is peppered with illustrations of his experience helping the church he serves to share ministry work. Further, Hellerman shares stories and lessons learned and used in his teaching work at Talbot School of Theology.
I think this book deserves a spot in the pastoral training schools of the West, where we tend to over-emphasize the soloist approach to ministry. Even in churches with a ministry team, there are frequently pulpit stars and then “others” who do the rest of the work. That model has already failed us in many ways, and Hellerman highlights some of those, and will fail us further as the years go by.
I cannot help but see Embracing Shared Ministry as a good illustration of a corrective text for the corporate-style mentality in American Christianity. While there are some churches that work from a shared approach, this idea is generally lacking. For many, I think it is that the default has been to the Pastor-CEO model and no one has really thought about it. Those are the pastors and churches that would benefit from a diligent study of this book.
For the few that are deliberately running their churches like a for-profit business and who refuse to share, embrace, or minister, this book is a threat. If your congregation reads this, they may begin to think more Biblically about ministry. And they may just insist on it.
Which would be a good thing.