As I reflect back on the posts about liturgy, worship and brokenness, I have also tried to see ministry in that context. There is a book by Paul Moots, Becoming Barnabas: The Ministry of Encouragement (The Alban Institute, 2004) that seems to fit within this whole discussion.
My guess is that many of us have not thought much about the ministry of encouragement. In most of my travels and visits with congregations, this seldom is mentioned. Most often, people want “the method that will work for us.” The ministry of encouragement is not a method or quick fix for congregational problems, but is something far deeper and lasting. Moots introduces us to the Biblical concept of encouragement then offers ways that the ministry of encouragement is part and parcel of our work together. He demonstrates each aspect from the life and ministry of Barnabas, and early traveling companion of Paul. Moots offers some thought-provoking questions, and he provides some guidelines on how the ministry of encouragement can work in a partnership between pastor and congregation.
It is no secret that Western culture has made a cult of success, and that success American-style is couched in terms of size or growth or wealth or winning. The danger is that the church has accepted the larger culture’s definition by regarding success as growth in membership size and budget, rather than as faithfulness in discipleship. (p. xii)
At their best, the strengths of small, strong congregations lie in their intimacy and shared history, their sense of compassion and mission, their self-reliance and generosity. (p. xiii)
“…we are not called to make our congregations into cookie-cutter versions of Willow Creek or Ginghamsburg. What we are called to remember is that every church can and must hear Jesus’ mandate to make disciples of all nations and, by extension, to make disciples in all communities and congregations. All Christians can and must be challenged to make full use of our gifts in Christ’s service. Regardless of size or liturgy or music style, every local church that faithfully follows Christ will see signs of spiritual growth and often numerical growth as well. (p. xv)
With proper preparation and focus, every partnership between pastor and congregation should result in a challenging and fruitful ministry. (p. xv)
His chapter titles reveal his direction for congregational ministry of encouragement:
1 The Ministry of Encouragement
2 Standing with and Standing Aside: The Ministry of Partnership
3 Standing with Outsiders and Outcasts: The Ministry of Hospitality
4 Standing against Fear: The Ministry of Courage
5 Standing against Failure: The Ministry of Reconciliation
6 Authenticity in Ministry: Character and Call
7 A Ministry in Process
This book deserves a close reading and hearing in our congregations by pastors and lay leadership.