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Review: The Politics of Ministry

IVP Praxis, 2019. 216 pp.
Ministry is a political activity. This is the bold claim set forth by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman, and Donald C. Guthrie in their new book, The Politics of Ministry: Navigating Power Dynamics and Negotiating Interests (IVP Praxis, 2019). In a world where politics is associated with corruption, power moves, and snaky behavior, the authors maintain that ministry involves politics because it meets its most basic definition: working with others to achieve interests. Thus, the question is not whether ministry should be political but how politics can be used in a God-honoring way.

Moving beyond a guide to surviving church politics, this book stands at the intersection of corporate business and leadership theory and pastoral theology. It begins with three real-life stories that illustrate the politics of ministry. Then, the authors describe the dynamics and power of politics, types of interests, negotiation, and the ethics of ministerial politics. With practical insights and a charitable tone, Burns, Chapman, and Guthrie establish a strong case for embracing and redeeming the politics of ministry.

This book was filled with useful, practical insights on political leadership in ministry. The chapters were manageable and substantive. The personal stories made reading this book very interesting and imaginative. However, the design of the book itself could use some improvement. The margins are very narrow, and the pull quotes, while a helpful asset, are visually unappealing, with a cluttered design. These, unfortunately, detract from carrying the book's powerful message.

Rather than ignoring the existence of ministry's political nature, the authors desire that readers, as servants of Christ's Church, learn to navigate these political realities as they take part in God's redemptive work. To them, the issue is not having interests; it is competing for individual interests and agendas when the true pursuit should be for God's interests. This book is an invaluable resource for pastors, elders, lay leaders, seminarians, and anyone who is and will be involved in the politics of ministry.

(A complimentary review copy was given in exchange for an honest review.)


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