In deference to my reader in Suffolk (you know who you are!), rather than just plugging this book I thought I would add the odd comment/summary as I read through it over the next days (weeks? months?!).
Chapter 1 is all about ‘Identifying with people’ – and in particular the people you minister amongst. The word ‘incarnational’ is used, but not in a way that might cause any eyebrows to be raised.
Very helpful for me were the challenges to put the needs of others first and to press on in the face of frustration.
“Biblical leaders should be so devoted to their people that in order to help them, the leaders abstain from doing some things that they want to do and perform some tasks that they do not like to do. Because of their commitment to a group of people, they will perservere in working with them even though inconvenient and seemingly fruitless.” (p22)
And of course our primary model in all this is the Lord Jesus. It strikes me that these comments apply well to those of us who are husbands and fathers equally well, and not just to the sphere of ministry.
Fernando reminds us that suffering and joy are closely linked in the NT in a way which seems incredibly counter-cultural today. He also reminds us that in the family of the church it is not enough to “signal that [troublesome complainers] are not welcome in the church.” (p26) Rather, “We stick to such people and willingly take on the frustration of talking with them because we believe that we will not ultimately lose through such costly commitment. It will be necessary for our theology to override our feelings on this.” (p26-7)
He ends the chapter on a positive note:
“Commitment does pay, for it begets commitment in others and makes our ministry more effective!” (p27).