Seminary professor and author Dr. Andrew Purves has some advice for clergy trying to do it all: Move aside. Let go of the idea that it’s YOUR ministry. Let Jesus take control and share in God’s ministry.
“Conceiving ministry as our ministry is the root problem that ails us in ministry today,” said Purves, the Jean and Nancy Davis Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. “Rather, ministry should be understood as a sharing in the continuing ministry of Jesus.”
As he put it when his book, The Crucifixion of Ministry, was published:
“Our ministries must be displaced by the ministry of Jesus... We must be bumped aside, firmly, perhaps mortifyingly. For us, this means the death of our ministries. The reason is that this displacement is not an invitation to let Jesus take over by letting him “in” on our territory.
“What we think we should do, and can do, and in fact do in ministry, is put to death. Why? Simply put: too often they are in the way. Our ministries are not redemptive, even when conducted from the best spiritual, therapeutic, and moral motives. Only the ministry of Jesus is redemptive.”
The crucifixion of our ministry, Purves said, “is the ground for the redemption of our ministries, and for us, the ministers, the source of hope, joy, and peace in our service.”
For some, he explained, “God doesn’t have too hard a time getting us out of the way. In fact, it may be a great relief when God brings us to the ministerial Jordan: cross and let me do it, God in effect tells us; stay here on this side and it’s an early and resentful retirement. It may be that the burdens of office are so heavy that we welcome with open arms being bumped aside by Jesus. I suspect many of us find ourselves here.”
“If we aspire to be ministerial royalty, however, the crucifixion by God may have to be much more brutal,” he noted.
“Whether we are successful or not, or just somewhere in the middle, we get in the way. Whether we minister with just some competence, or with a truck-load of competence, with small success or with much public acclamation (and the salary to go with it), we are brought by God to the point where our reliance on what we think we can do is killed by God.”
During a daylong event on Saturday, March 5 at Dutilh UMC, Purves will help Western PA Conference clergy focus on what it looks like to experience the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Ministry. He explains the day this way:
”We will ask, first, the central Christological question: Who are you, Lord? (Acts 9:5). Second, we will try to get a sense of the present ministry of the ascended Lord. And finally we will look at what it means for us to get in on Jesus' continuing ministry. In this way we move from the crucifixion to the resurrection of ministry.”
A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, Purves earned degrees in philosophy and divinity from the University of Edinburgh, and a Th. M. degree from Duke Divinity School. He completed his doctorate at the University of Edinburgh.
Licensed by the Church of Scotland, he came to the U.S. in 1978. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1979 and served as minister of the Hebron Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Pa. until 1983, when he was called to the faculty of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he has taught for 32 years.
Purves has a deep concern for the renewal of the church, and speaks regularly around the country on matters of theological and spiritual renewal.
Get details of the March 5 event and register.