How to be a Church Minister - Book Review
How to be a Church Minister. Reviewed by Richard Littledale in Preach, Autumn 2018.
To me, Nigel Wright is a spiritual grandee -- a man whose spiritual stature, intellectual understanding and wit I have admired since the day I first met him when I was a nervous prospective ministry candidate. In this regard, the book does not disappoint. It reads like the mature reflection of a finely-tuned theological mind laced with enough wit and humility to gain the reader's interest.
Nigel states that he book is intended for four different audiences. These are: those exploring a call to ministry, those training for such a call, those exercising church ministry and those retiring from it. Although this is a wide brief, it fulfils it well. Where the book is less successful, I feel, is the attempt to 'translate' the insights for those of all different church traditions. Nigel is a Baptist -- and his most profound insights are drawn from that tradition.
Those Baptist-honed insights, though, are worth their weight in gold. Nigel is a past master of pithy theological insight and he does not disappoint here. Consider this description, for instance, of the call to preach: 'the task of ministry is to render God's word'. Only a minister and theologian of Nigel's standing could write the following description of ministry: 'The long obedience means holding to Jesus Christ without diminution, addition or compromise.' If I could sum the book up, it would be that it is an extended defence of and call for integrity in every aspect of ministry. After serving as a Baptist minister for over 30 years, I found much in these pages to make me think, reflect and pray.
As well as dealing with aspects of call and training, Nigel also writes about the many and varied facets of church ministry -- from weekly services and pastoral visiting, to occasional offices, conflict resolution and continuing ministerial development. The book is unique amongst those I have ever read on ministry in that it also talks about how, and whether, to bring a ministry to an end. This truly is a comprehensive account.
I cannot think of any stage of ministry at which I would not recommend this book. I have just completed it as an experienced minister, and I am about to lend it to a young man who is contemplating the first inklings of a call to church ministry. I leave you with one of Nigel's typically rich, but elegant, descriptions of what ministry is all about:
'A habitual disposition of prayerful availability to God through Jesus Christ and in the Spirit.'
If you seek such a disposition, have lost it, or even need to lay it down -- I commend this book to you.
Review by Richard Littledale