Servant Ministry - Book Review
Reviewed by Richard Frost
First published in 2013, Servant Ministry is Tony Horsfall’s exploration of the meaning of servanthood in the first servant song from Isaiah.
Making good use of a wide range of other Biblical references, the author demonstrates that Christ is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Servant Ministry helps the reader to reflect on the words of Isaiah 42:1-9 and also to sit with and understand the true servant nature of Christ.
As another reviewer has observed, this is not a book to read in one sitting. Indeed, the short chapters make it digestible and aid the devotional approach which Tony Horsfall suggests. By using non-academic language, he presents a thorough analysis of what the Bible has to say about servanthood and how Christ is the Servant, the chosen one.
Exploring the origins of servanthood (including the Old Testament understanding of slavery) and the concept that one is a servant not only to superiors but to other people, the book also considers how, as servants, we are to prepare others for servanthood. Tony Horsfall also makes the link between servanthood and justice, suffering, compassion and gentleness. ‘Here is the heart of servanthood,’ he writes, ‘the selfless giving of oneself to meet the needs of others.’
The chapter on ‘The servant as leader’ is especially powerful and provocative; equally perceptive and helpful is the chapter on’ Humility, and the danger of pride’. The author also addresses the abusive nature of power and how this is often caused by insecure leaders who get carried away by their own success but are seldom challenged. The actuality of pain and suffering for those who are servant leaders is also sensitively acknowledged. ‘The best leaders are servants at heart, and service, rather than position or power, is their starting point.’
The final sections explore how God speaks in different ways, how he provides a reassuring, protective hand and how he guides us: helpful reminders for those times when we lose sight of who we are in God.
‘Confidence in ministry is not self-confidence; it is confidence in our relationship with God and in his ability to sustain us.’
Although focusing on those whose ministry is in a church or Christian setting there is much which could be taken from this book and applied in secular environments.