One of the Academy of Parish Clergy's "Top 10 Books for Parish Ministry" When is the last time you asked yourself hard questions about why you were pursuing certain relationships in your ministry? Could it be that the end game for many of us is not relationship per se but loyalty, adherence, even submission? The sheep in our flock become the means to our end: pastoring becomes less about the people of God and more about maintenance of the status quo―and, if we are willing to recognize it, the elevation of our pastoral status. Here practical theologian Andy Root dissects relational ministry as we have come to understand it and searches for the seed of a more wholesome, more pastoral understanding of the relationships for which God has prepared the church: the place where, when two or more are gathered in his name, Christ is present.
Andrew Root joined Luther Seminary in 2005 as assistant professor of youth and family ministry. Previously he was an adjunct professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington D.C., and Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, N.J.
Root received his bachelor of arts degree from Bethel College, St. Paul, Minn., in 1997. He earned his master of divinity (2000) and his master of theology (2001) degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif. He completed his doctoral degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2005.
Root's ministry experience includes being a gang prevention counselor in Los Angeles, youth outreach directed in a congregation, staff member of Young Life, and a confirmation teacher. He has also been a research fellow for Princeton Theological Seminary's Faith Practices Project.
Root has published articles in the Journal of Youth and Theology, The International Journal of Practical Theology, and Word and World.
He is a member of the International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry and the International Bonhoeffer Society.
I underlined way too much in this book (especially considering it was a copy from my college's library - oops)! Root continues his radically moving, crucial approach of the theological turn in ministry; expanding specifically in his thoughts on vulnerability and relationships are absolutely crucial as a pastor. Having studied under one of Root's PhD students, I felt a special connection to this book as I read through the whole thing in a day and used much of it in my senior thesis on the importance of empathetic relationships.
I think the readability of this book is 3 stars — Root tends to be a bit repetitive and I found the structure of his argument to be a little disjointed. However, I give this book 4 stars because the idea Root is communicating is new and desperately needed. In this book he explores how ministers (he writes for clergy but the concept is for all) can focus on being with the person in a pervasive culture of individualism. While I may not re-read the book anytime soon, I do think that I will return to Root’s ideas when it comes to rethinking church and defending that thought.
Root is at least a thousand times smarter than the average person. He is clearly well-read, articulate, and intelligent. At parts, it seems that Root may stumble over his own intelligence in this book.
His thesis is clear enough and captured well in the subtitle: "sharing in Christ by sharing ourselves". He sticks with the agenda and is frequently borderline redundant in his efforts to summarize.
When I say that Root may "stumble" over his intelligence here's what I mean: The language in this book seems primarily philosophical rather than biblical. I feel that Root draws more from neuroscience, history, and philosophy than from Scripture. While appreciate what these fields add to the conversation, the biblical engagement on this topic seemed a little half baked.
I recommended the book to someone when I was about halfway through. I now feel slightly embarrassed and may go back and say, "Yeah, just read the first half..."
It talks about how a pastor has to think of their congregation not as individuals, fuelled by their desires in this individualistic world in which we live, but as people. People who are their relationships.
The argument goes that God did not make us to be individuals but people who are our relationships and this is most perfectly seen in the hypostatic union- Jesus as completely God but also completely man. He is the point of contact between humanity and God.
The book ends with a chapter of some practical examples of how this Lutheran-Presbyterian congregation have implemented seeing the congregation as people who are their relationships and not as individuals.
I wrote a rather lengthy review on my blog. Here I will just say that I've added this to my essential bibliography for pastoral ministry. Root really focuses in on the importance of personhood, relationships and the hypostatic union (are you intrigued yet?). Read my whole review at: http://thoughtsprayersandsongs.com/20...
The most inspiring parts of this book were the first and last quarters. The examples and stories told illustrate the author's point much more clearly than his language in the middle. That being said, the theology included is helpful if give sufficient time for reflection. I'd recommend to other pastors or seminary students with the encouragement to avoid stopping in the middle.
A bit of overlap from Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, but I appreciated the connections made to pastoral ministry as well. It definitely added more depth to my understanding of the pastoral role.
This text leaves me thinking about the form that ministry should take. We certainly should be more concerned with sharing ourselves than seeking relationships just to grow the kingdom. I am pondering much right now.