Today I am pleased to say that my husband Paul has kindly written a book review to share with you all. Jesus Driven Ministry written by Ajith Fernando has been an inspiring, helpful book to read, and I haven’t even finished it yet! Thankfully though, Paul has finished it, and here is what he has to say. Thanks Paul!
Jesus Driven Ministry is a book, as the title suggests, aimed at teaching Christian leaders. In an age of mega-churches, the desire for immediate and measurable results and a face-paced society, Ajith Fernando seeks to lead leaders to the only sure guide for life, ministry and the church – Jesus. Fernando primarily uses the Gospel of Mark, as well as the synoptics and a bit of John, to outline key principles in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus Driven Ministry is broadly chronological in how it follows Mark with each chapter consisting of a fairly self-contained topic with titles such as: ‘Empowered by the Spirit’, ‘Growing a Team’ and ‘Visiting Homes’.
The content itself is logical, practical and easy to follow. Each chapter contains numerous real-world examples to back up the principles being discussed as well as reflections on ministry practices in the church today. Clearly, Fernando is well read as he quotes from a wide variety of sources and explains the original Greek words where helpful or important.
The book draws deeply from Fernando’s personal experience in ministry – and personal experience he has! After more than 25 years serving as the Sri Lankan Director of Youth For Christ (when the book was written) the personal anecdotes and stories from his ministry give the book an authenticity and realism that often lacks in this type of ministry book.
One thing the book successfully manages to do is capture the radical nature of Jesus’ ministry and the principles for Christian community that he established. This is profoundly convicting for those who are either in Christian ministry or for those who have simply been around church long enough to observe certain unbiblical, culture-based practices that creep into church. However, because the book is so deeply steeped in biblical quotation and reflection this does not come across as judgemental or critical but simply as a natural outworking of biblical truth. The challenge to pastors and Christian leaders to throw off cultural sins or ungodly desires in ministry and genuinely pursue Christ-centred ministry is real and powerful.
A couple of examples that stood out to me, and were personally convicting, were prayer and identifying with people. As anyone in ministry will testify to identify with people is difficult and energy sapping work. People are hard to love and hard to minister to. It is easy to avoid the hard things like visiting homes, caring for the emotionally and spiritually needy and giving time to demanding people. But as Fernando points out, the life of Jesus is a stirring reminder of what it means to enter the lives of ordinary, hurting, broken people to show God’s love. Secondly, prayer. It sounds so simple, but prayer seems to forever be the neglected discipline of Christians and pastors. Fernando’s chapter on prayer is compelling and is likely, like it did to me, to leave you convicted and uncomfortable. He writes ‘there is nothing more important than the work of prayer’ and how true this is. I encourage you to read the book for more detail but one aspect of prayer Fernando explains is worth mentioning. Quality prayer prevents burnout. Daily, uninterrupted, lengthy, set apart time with the Lord provides refreshment for the soul, along with godly perspective, mental rest and peace that is indispensable for long-term pastoral ministry. There is only one source of living water for dry and thirsty Christian leaders. It is a sober reminder.
The strength of the book lies in how Fernando weaves together solid biblical teaching, ministry principles, practical ministry examples and a great passion for the gospel in an easy to read manner. Fernando builds all of his teaching and principles directly from the bible. The bible really is the foundation of the book. Indeed the book is so full of biblical references and examples from the life of Jesus that it feels more like a gospel commentary or deeply-thought-through reflection on the life of Jesus rather than a book on ministry principles. And ultimately that is what the book is. While Fernando’s passion for the gospel and years of ministry wisdom cannot help but grasp the readers’ attention, it is the person of Jesus who holds centre stage. I am certain Ajith Fernando would want it no other way and this is what, for me, makes the book not just good, but great.