Context provides understanding. To understand biblical principles of leadership, especially for team based ministry today, it is good to know the early church world and ours. That’s the great value of Joseph H. Hellerman’s book, Embracing Shared Ministry. He looks at power and status (2 key concepts in the book) at work in the early church and in our world today.
Writing with the mind of a professor and the heart of a pastor, Hellerman works through Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how its uniqueness as a Roman colony impacts Paul’s writing of Philippians and even more Paul’s implications for leadership.
Yet his target in the book is to lift up team or even more consensus based ministry. He is opposed to the sole pastor leader who leads without any accountability or input. A major thrust of the book is dealing with the dangers of unaccountable pastors who lead in a way that does not reflect biblical values. I affirm the danger he describes, I wish he had spent more time on the solution than the problem.
What I appreciated most about Embracing Shared Ministry is the context and clarification Hellerman provided in the first two parts of the book in dealing with power and authority in the Roman world, and in the early church. His writing style provided solid scholarship as well as putting those concepts in every day understandable terms. His use of illustrations provided clarity. His use of quotes provided context.
I wish he had spent more time in digging out the treasure of his cruciform concept of leadership. That is how the cross impacts and is to influence Christian leadership today. His examples were primarily from his own experience, and his biblical context was primarily from Philippians.
I give Embracing Shared Ministry 4 out of 5 stars. I am glad I read the book for the early church background. I would have appreciated greater insight and depth to shared ministry. Those who would enjoy this book the most would be ones who want to see how leadership and life functioned in the days of the early church, and to better understand the book of Philippians. Those who need the book the most are probably the most reluctant to read it — unaccountable church leaders who fly on a solo path.
My thanks to Kregel Publishing for providing a free copy to review. I wasn’t required to give a positive review just an honest one.