Tidball, Ministry By the Book


Derek Tidball, Ministry By the Book: New Testament Patterns for Pastoral Leadership. IVP Academic, 2009.

Referenced in: Pastoral Theology Summary

Tidball looks at how each New Testament writer reflected his theology in his respective pastoral work. It shows how theology expressed itself in role and context for the authors of the New Testament.

Tidball addresses the common tendency, both historically and currently, to address the challenges of ministry by placing too much trust in a particular conception of ministry that insures the hope of renewal. One group insists that ministers should be leaders, others spiritual directors, others counselors, others channels for the Holy Spirit, others exemplars of inner spirituality, others the prophet who engages society, etc. Tidball insists that ministry in the New Testament shows a legitimately variegated approach. He looks at each book of the New Testament as an expression of the authors’ ministries to their respective faith communities:

“My contention is that the New Testament writers set forth before us a number of models of ministry, each one of which is shaped by the nee sod the church they were serving and, no doubt, by their own individual personalities and interests as well. Each New Testament book has a lot to say about pastoral leadership, even if it is not all transparent on the surface. …The needs Matthew was addressing were not the same as those addressed by Luke, nor Jude, nor John in Revelation. And Matthew and Luke, as well as Peter, James and Paul, were all wired up by God in different ways. They all bring to bear their own backgrounds, ambitions and passions to what they have to say about ministry. The content combined with the person of the writer gives rise to different conceptions of ministry, all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As a result we discover the varying contours of New Testament pastoral leadership, a genuine diversity that finds its true unity in Christ and the gospel.” (14)

He develops this theme by looking at each book separately, except for Paul’s letters which are divided into three groups. Below is a brief summary of the Table of Contents:

  • Matthew: ministry in a divided church. The ministry of wise instruction
  • Mark: ministry in an oppressed culture. The ministry of kingdom emissaries
  • Luke: ministry in a graceless world. The ministry of apostolic compassion
  • John: ministry in a spiritual desert. The ministry of the good shepherd
  • Acts: ministry in an emerging church. The ministry of community formation
  • Paul: ministry in an infant church. The ministry of a founding father
  • Paul: ministry in a maturing church. The ministry of an apostolic teacher
  • Paul: ministry in an aging church. The ministry of elder statesman
  • Hebrews: ministry in a faltering church. The ministry of a reflective practitioner
  • James: ministry in a half-hearted church. The ministry of transparent wisdom
  • 1 Peter: ministry in a despised church. The ministry of a seasoned elder
  • John’s letters: ministry in a compromised church. The ministry of experienced truth
  • Jude, 2 Peter: ministry in an endangered church. The ministry of pastoral polemics
  • Revelation: ministry in a hostile world. The ministry of prophetic proclamation

The last chapter seeks to bring some degree of unified understanding out of the diverse elements of these theologies.

This implies that both the theology and praxis of ministry should be defined by the context and the gifts of those God calls/uses in that time and place. He warns against what happened in ancient Corinth with its factions:

“Each championed a particular form of leadership and doubted the validity of the ministry of those who did not live up to their expectations. Paul denounced them for thinking according to the standards of their age, rather than as Christians should. He pointed out to them that they were making choices where choice was not necessary. …Similarly, we need not choose between the variety of models of ministry presented in the New Testament but rather rejoice that God has such a rich diversity and look to encourage people who are different from us to use their calling to the full and as appropriate in different situations.” (16)

Tidball offers a set of very refreshing “theologies” of ministry that may help us better appreciate the diverse equipping of God for the difficult times we face. Readers may find themselves both affirmed and challenged.

From the Publisher

The New Testament writers set before us a number of models of ministry, each of which is shaped by the particular needs of the churches they were serving. Their own backgrounds, ambitions and passions also contribute to what they have to say about ministry. The contours of New Testament pastoral leadership, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exhibit a genuine diversity that finds its unity in Christ and his gospel.

Focusing on pastoral leadership within local churches or groups of churches, Derek Tidball provides a comprehensive survey of these models and patterns with applications for today’s ministry. Tidball’s overview offers “models of permission” that enable a freer approach to ministry and the way it is conducted, challenges the stunted understanding of ministry that can often characterize our churches today, and gives encouragement to those who do not fit a “ministry by numbers” approach.

Well-grounded in relevant scholarship, Tidball’s fresh engagement with the biblical texts, stimulating analysis and wise application will be of value to all who are established in pastoral leadership, or training for it, and looking to explore a variety of biblically valid approaches to ministry.

About the Author

Derek Tidball is visiting scholar at Spurgeon’s College, London. Previously, he served as principal of the London School of Theology, where he lectured in pastoral theology. He also served for many years as a Baptist pastor. His several books include The Reality of Christ: The Message of Colossians for Today, Skillful Shepherds: Explorations in Pastoral Theology and commentaries in the Bible Speaks Today Series. In addition, he is series editor for the Bible Speaks Today Bible Themes Series.

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