I’m fortunate enough (Having worked for a publisher and having friends who work at publishers!) that I don’t have to buy too many new books to build up my ‘to read’ pile, but when I do, it means it needs to do something for me that other books haven’t, or I’m particularly interested in it. So, when I read Robin Ham’s review of Progress: Lifelong growth for gospel workers, and then saw a copy on sale, my sluggish brain kicked into gear and I made a purchase.
Having finished it, I’m glad I did. Adrian, whose previous books in the same FIEC series (see below review) are also very helpful, begins his book with a sobering challenge:
“Christian ministry is littered with the skeletons of leaders and gospel workers who thought they had arrived. They are scattered widely and liberally: those with failed marriages; those with ministries destroyed by sin; those who became sermon hacks and embraced laziness; those who found their joy in serving self or sin rather than the people God placed in their care“
I’ve never been in ‘full time gospel ministry’, but I’ve be involved in Church and Chrisitan leadership of various kinds since I became a Christian more than ten years ago. I’m also, like all of us, a sinner saved by grace whose occasional lapses disqualify me from time to time. Our only qualification for leadership is obedience to God’s calling – and Adrian reminds us of Paul’s own words to that effect:
“Paul is clear: there is a link between our own Christian state and the effectiveness of the ministry he has given to us: ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Tim. 4:16)“
This short book is a helpful tool for reflective practitioners to think through what it means to progress, ever onwards, in our life and ministry. This book is not a guilt-trip to some kind of further study (Though that may be appropriate for some, especially in newer and church planting church movements), and neither is it a radical call to re-imagine the way that ministry and training happen. Rather, it is an invitation to think again about the kind of questions leaders ask themselves. In that sense, the book is an extended reflection on the section of 1 Timothy 4 the author quotes from above – offering, in the light of the grace of God and a calling to leadership, prayerful and practical ways to consider what it means to progress towards Jesus in godliness and gifting.
I’ve tried to keep this review short, because this is a short (Though rich) book – and I want to encourage leaders to read it! I think this book is perfect for those in paid minsitry – but also of benefit to those of us leading and ministering alongside other jobs. Given the focus on scripture and the rhythm of prayer that undergirds this book, I think it wuold also be good reading for a team of elders (Where there is a blend of paid/unpaid elders), a PCC, or even the trustees of a church/plant, for considering the long-term sustainability and growth of their ministry leaders. Simply put, this is a helpful book on the way that church leaders can become more like Jesus. Progress is rooted in the Bible, full of the Holy Spirit, and a beautiful blend of deep reflection on God’s word and practical examples for God’s people in God’s world.
Adrian has written (one with his wife, Celia) two previous books in this FIEC series:
- Glorious Union: Flourishing in Marriage and Ministry
- To Fly to Serve: Practical Help for Giving a Gospel Talk