Liberating Ministry: A Book Review

August 30, 2018 at 8:58 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is success in ministry?  That is the question Kent and Barbara Hughes tried to answer when they were struggling in a ministry that didn’t appear successful in the world’s eyes.  Is success in ministry big numbers of people and dollars, big programs, or is it something else? Their answer to that question became an excellent book called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.  Though they wrote this over thirty years ago, it seems it’s even more relevant today than it was then.

According to the authors the church has bought into an American prosperity model of success rather than the biblical model, and that has caused untold stress and trouble for people honestly trying to serve Christ.  The book begins with their story.

Barbara knew that when things were going well at church I was OK, but otherwise I was discouraged.  If church attendance was up, I was up; if it was down, so was I. And the numbers had been going down for a long time.  (p. 14)

Years earlier when I began the ministry my motivation was simply too serve Christ. . . .  All I wanted was the approval of God. But imperceptibly my high Christian idealism had shifted from serving to receiving, from giving to getting.  I realized that what I really wanted was a growing church and “success” more than the smile of God. (p. 30)

After what they called “a dark night of the soul” Kent and Barbara Hughes began to ask how success should be defined from a biblical perspective.  The second section of the book is their conclusions. Success, from a biblical point of view, is first faithfulness to what God calls one to do. I couldn’t agree more.  Success is also loving God above all else, a commitment to prayer and seeking God, holiness in one’s personal life, then serving and loving others with a positive attitude.  Amen.

This book is a must read for anyone in or going into ministry.  We must separate ourselves from the American model of success and follow the biblical model.  But it is also a good read for lay people in leadership positions.  The last chapter, “How the Congregation Can Help” is a great description of the stress today’s pastor is under and how you can help.  Hughes’ description (quoting a friend) of the struggle between the emotions and the will concerning the discipline of prayer on pages 78-80 is worth the cost of the book.

One last quote to close with:  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.

A great book.  Happy Reading!

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