Sergiu M. Brădean

Home » Book Reviews » Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God, (IVP Books, 2005)

Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God, (IVP Books, 2005)

Foto 09.03.2014

Foto 09.03.2014

I had to start with the book that reminded me most of my Seminary years. The moment I started reading the book and the list with the names of the theologians who revived the interest for the Trinitarian Theology in the 20th century, (17) I knew I would love this book. It is a great and challenging read, but also clarifying because the view on the Trinity is accessible. It reminded me as a minister of my purpose for ministry, and challenged me not to loose my focus. It also can minister to the soul of pastors and it ministered to my soul!

Dr. Seamands wrote this book starting from the presupposition that the Trinity although accepted by Christians as a truth is not truly understood, explored or made as a life application. Dr. Seamands explains the importance of what the Trinity means to us and how to remodel our lives, our ministries and our relationships after it. Also, Dr. Seamands does a tremendous service to the Church in taking the thought of the recent renaissance in Trinitarian theology and implementing its implications for the practice of theology of ministry. The book begins by considering the nature of God – one God coexisting in three Persons. From this, the Trinitarian contemplation on the nature of God becomes a model for ministry. The purpose statement of the book is: “I have written this book-to demonstrate the significance of the doctrine of the Trinity for the vocation of ministry.”(11). The Trinity is at the heart of our call to ministry, and ministers are called to perfect submission while not losing their distinct personhood. Below are the chapters with my understanding of each in a word (it is not a comprehensive word for the entire chapter, but this is what touched me):

1.Trinitarian Ministry (Centrality): trinity should be central for the life of the church and for the life of the individual. Both, at the level of corporate and individual, the ministry should be rooted in the unity and diversity of the Trinity. Therefore, we are involved in the ministry of Jesus Christ to the Father through the Holy Spirit.

2. Relational Personhood (Vulnerability): This chapter is a reminder that the Gospel and the Trinitarian model call us to open ourselves to relationships. “Many Christians have bought into the cultural notion that religion is an individual, private matter and assume they can believe without belonging.”(39) This chapter presents the concept of “person” in the image of the Trinitarian model. And so, we have to become “persons” in relation to God, Church and family.

3. Joyful Intimacy (Healing): Our joy lies not in accomplishing things for ourselves or for God. Our joy rests in our intimate relationship with God. And this brings healing in our life, in our relations and in our ministry. “And this love-so amazing, so divine-is the only sure foundation of ministry, the overflowing foundation out of which our love for God and for others arises.”(73)

4. Glad Surrender (Openness): The persons of the Trinity in their immanent relations are only too pleased to surrender to each other. The sacrificial openness of the Cross and total surrender emulated by Christians. “As bearers of the divine image, we too find our life by losing it.”(81)

5. Complex Simplicity (Moderator): This chapter claims that there is simplicity in the Trinity. Te explanation of this concept is not oversimplified. (107) Oversimplification or logical reasoning related to the Trinity will always lead to heresy. But the paradox is that there is a radical middle that can be experienced in ministry “an understanding arrived at on the far side of complexity” (116).

6. Gracious Self-Acceptance (Otherness): Ministry needs to flow out of an understanding of self that is rooted in our relationship to God and others. We don’t lose our personality, we accept that God gave us uniqueness and we minister from that gift. This involves a separation between our false selves and our genuine selves (concept that appears constantly in Thomas Merton).

7. Mutual Indwelling (Immersion): Basically, this chapter makes the point that Christ indwells us, but doesn’t become us; fills us and joins us, but doesn’t replace us. This is in fact the definition of the theological term perichoresis (142). Also this chapter speaks of the joy of the indewling, both in relation to God and others (ministry); Christ in us, the hope of Glory.

8. Passionate Mission (Movement): If mission is at the heart of the Trinity it must be at the heart of ministry, too. This is the strongest chapter. It bemoans the sad reality that many times a seminary education winds up isolating the minister instead of sending the minister out into the world.

This book was very intellectual refreshing and soul challenging. Dr. Seamands brings the theoretical abstract theological concept under the light of practical ministry. Through this approach, he moulds a Theology of ministry “of Jesus Christ, to the Father through the Holy Spirit”.

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