Thomas W. Currie III. The Joy of Ministry. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2008. xiii+126 pgs.
In this work Thomas Currie skillfully weaves theology, spiritual formation, and pastoral insight in a work with a title that many would consider an oxymoron. The proposal of this book is that “nothing is more crucial to the future of the church’s own life and ministry that the recovery of the gospel’s gift of joy (3).” The possession of the disciple according to Jesus, Currie sets out to show ministers how joy can be their possession, or perhaps more accurately, possess them.
The fundamental thrust throughout most of the work is the rejection of gnosticism in the work of ministry. Much joy-sucking frustration pastors experience can be blamed, according to Currie, by not taking the physical nature of the church seriously enough. The church is made up of real people, who often fall dreadfully short of the gospel’s ideal.
Rather than seeking to find the perfect church, the minister instead should realize that an ecclesiology than is grounded in Christology is not mired in shame over it’s shortcomings, but rather finds even in its filth an occasion for joy in their salvation, made possible by the Son who “for the joy set before him endured the cross . . .” Thus Currie argues that both the sin and hardships that accompany embodied life, real ministry, can be occasions for gratefulness and to help people focus on Jesus Christ and not themselves.
Currie draws heavily on the work of Karl Barth & Fyoder Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov to urge pastors to lead their congregations away from their preoccupation with busyness & the loathing of their failures to take time to bask in the glow of God’s “irresponsible grace.” This book, regardless of one’s theological sensibilities, is a treasure to both scholars and pastors in its call to stop taking ourselves so seriously, in both our achievements and failures, and to instead find joy in our salvation. This is message sorely needed today.