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The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians Paperback – February 1, 2004
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From the Back Cover
Is the cross truly the center of your ministry?
Today we commonly see images of the cross adorning churches, dangling from necklaces, and gleaming from lapels. Yet the image that is so sanitized for us today was grotesque and abhorrent to those living in the first century. It was a symbol of evil, torture, and shame. It is this realistic and horrifying view of the cross that should call us to Christian ministry and compel us to share the Good News of Christ's triumph over death.
Through his exposition of 1 Corinthians, D. A. Carson presents a comprehensive view of what the death of Christ means in preaching and ministering to God's people. He confronts the issues of factionalism, servant-leadership, shaping "world" Christians, and the source of knowledge in order to help Christian leaders learn principles for dynamic, cross-centered worship.
D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author or editor of over forty books, including The King James Version Debate; How Long, O Lord?; A Call to Spiritual Reformation; and Justification and Variegated Nomism.
About the Author
D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author or editor of more than forty books, including How Long, O Lord?, Teach Us to Pray, and Right with God.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is one of several smaller volumes Carson has written as expositions of parts of NT epistles. He has written one on discipleship form a part of Philippians, and Showing the Spirit is also from 1 Corinthians, but covers chapters 12-14.
This book has become something of a modern classic among certain readerships in the evangelical Reformed tradition, often recommended by people like Mark Dever, C.J. Mehanney, and the like.
This is NOT a normal Christian book on leadership. It is a biblical exposition of 1 Corinthians 1-4, 9 with an eye to Christian leadership as it relates to and is formed by a theology of the Cross. Yet it is a book on Christian leadership, since the first epistle to the Corinthians is much a defense by the apostle of his theological thinking undergurding his unorthodox leadership style- a style thought asinine and foolish in first century circles of Greek Rhetoricians (of which Paul was considered one since he was a traveling "preacher") and apparently to the Corinthian church also. Its lessons are more contemporaneous than one would expect from a 2000 year old text given certain showy and factional trends in American evangelicalism. Perhaps Hegel was right when he said the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Hopefully not, and Carson can help us with that.
In terms of exposition, the book is fabulous if sometimes not riveting. Carson is a meticulous exegete, and his decisions on word meaning, syntax and his eye to the logical flow of passages, when combined with his grasp of ancient near east history makes for great and insightful exposition. He brings these passages to life. Yet none of the exposition if for exposition's sake, as these chapters were first lectures with a certain pedagogical eye to the global church today. This is especially important since these early chapters of 1 Corinthians (1-3 esp.) have been misused be all kinds of Christian leaders to support exactly what they argue against.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is considering Christian leadership of any kind, especially younger men and women of college and graduate school age. This is a good book to read early on the path of theological development. Being grounded in the cross and leadership lessons drawn from the very pages of the Bible is incredibly important in an age when authors, speakers and publishers seem to want Christian leaders to be good communicators and managers but are not as interested in men and women who have been formed around the humility and foolishness of the cross and it's implications in the nitty gritty of daily relationship conflicts and competing priorities at loggerheads.
The Christian leader who reads Maxwell, Hybels, Warren, Quinn, or a hundred others writing on Christian leadership- but misses the content of this book, will find himself either led astray by the worst of the contemporary writers, or without the grounded depth of the best of them- and so unable to overflow with potency from the depths of a heart executed and resurrected by the tutoring of the cross.
We must hear the message of this epistle, and Carson is an able and honest tutor.
In this book, Carson again brings these two things together as he runs through the first several chapters of 1 Corinthians (and one later chapter) to provide a glimpse into the mind of Paul and his approach to ministry. Whereas we sometimes have a tendency to read small sections of the Scriptures in isolation, this book does an excellent job of drawing out the common thread that runs through these chapters - the centrality of the cross in Christian ministry. Never does Paul's mind wander far from the source of his salvation and D. A. Carson does a great job of showing that from these chapters in 1 Corinthians.
Especially if you are a pastor, I believe you will find this book to be a worthy reminder of what is central in ministry and it will be a fresh call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. (But even if you are not a pastor - as I am not - you will still benefit greatly from reading this book.)
_The Cross and Christian Ministry_ is a small book (137 pages) that offers a commentary on chapters one through four and nine of 1 Corinthians. As the title implies, Carson is concerned with how the cross of Christ is central to Christian ministry, whether the topic is preaching, the role and function of the Holy Spirit, factionalism, leadership, etc. Though this is one of Carson's smaller works, it is packed to the hilt with intense theological reflection, cutting questions, and convicting applications.
What I really connect with in many of Carson's writings is the maturity and wisdom with which he addresses many sensitive issues. This is manifest in his ability to view issues from both sides, even when those sides give the appearance as polar opposites. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4 when addressing whether a Christian is to judge others, Carson remarks:
"...on the one hand we find Jesus saying, 'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you' (Matt. 7:1-2). On the other hand, he says, 'Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment' (John 7:24). This running tension is very strong throughout the New Testament. There is much that condemns what might be called 'judgmentalism.' At the same time, chapter after chapter exhorts believers to be discerning, to distinguish right from wrong, to pursue what is best, to exercise discipline in the church, and so forth - functions that demand the proper use of judgment....We may gain some poise and balance if we remember the kinds of people the two sides address. Prohibitions directed against judging have in mind self-righteous people who want to protect their turf.By contrast, biblical injunctions to be discerning or to judge well in some circumstance or other are directed against those who are careless and undisciplined about holy things, especially about the words of God." (2003, pp. 99-100)
And, of course, Carson seldom shrinks from the tough questions. In 1 Corinthians 3, he persuasively demonstrates that the text is misunderstood if one understands it to be referring to the Catholic teaching of purgatory (or even to Christians in general). In 1 Corinthians 9, Carson begins to lay out the nuance in Paul stating on the one hand, that he is not under the Law, and, on the other hand, proclaiming that he is under the Law of Christ. Unfortunately, Carson decides not to broach the issue, claiming it would take too much time to untangle.
My only disappointment with _The Cross and Christian Ministry_ is that it does not address all 16 chapters in 1 Corinthians! But I do whole-heartedly recommend this brief guide, nonetheless, to all who are looking for a serious, but relatively brief, analysis of some of the major themes in 1 Corinthians. The interested reader may also find the questions for review and reflection at the end of each chapter helpful and especially suitable for a study-group environment.