Friday, March 13, 2009

Review: Jesus-Driven Ministry by Ajith Fernando

Yesterday I promised you the antidote to Roxburgh and Romanuk's The Missional Leader, and this book is it. If you're a pastor or ministry leader and you haven't yet picked up Jesus-Driven Ministry by Ajith Fernando, a pastor, Bible translator, missions trainer, and director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka, you absolutely should.

One of the glaring omissions of Leader was its sparse nods toward Scripture. Jesus-Driven Ministry is Scripture-saturated. Indeed, its chapter progression tracks along with the narrative of Mark's Gospel, and Fernando loads his reflections and insights with parallel words from elsewhere in Scripture. He even sort of apologizes for this in his Introduction, acknowledging that lots of Scripture quotations can make for less "flow" in reading, but I'll opt for that over leadership technobabble any day.

The initial strength of Fernando's approach is that it is unabashedly about the heart and the character of the minister, understanding that practical tips and steps won't matter much if they do not come from an inner life attuned to God's Spirit and bound to Christ. Fernando writes:
You will see that most of the ministry basics discussed here have to do with personal lifestlye. I make no apologies for this. There is a great interest in ministry technique today, and technique is important . . . But I believe the greatest crisis facing Christian leadership today concerns lifestyle -- always the burning issue. The well-known evangelist D.L. Moody is reported to have said that he had more trouble with D.L. Moody than with any other person he met!

Following that, the book lays a biblical foundation of compassion for shepherdless sheep, experiencing the power of the Spirit, affirming God's call into ministry. Then it moves to exploring essential pastoral principles in still more rich, detailed pages. Discipling, mentoring, Sabbathing, "gospel"ing, praying, crucifying the flesh, devoting onself to Scripture, visiting in homes and hospitals, waging spiritual warfare. All things stunningly absent in so many modern pastoral helps.

While nearly every other book out there for pastors promises bigger, better, and faster, Fernando is urging personal decrease for gospel increase. The portions on suffering with Jesus are probably just one reason you probably haven't heard pastors buzzing about this book before. Nobody's offering conference breakout sessions on the importance of suffering, after all.

But Jesus-Driven Ministry encourages and proclaims just what its title says: ministering out of the overflow of a heart after Christ's. Fernando writes:
When we linger in his presence, we deepen our intimacy with him, and this means that we can represent him better when we minister.

And isn't that what's all about? Representing Jesus?

It's a good book. I recommend it without hesitation.

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