It's another New Year and time to make new resolutions. It is also tempting to ask ourselves what is the newest, the latest, and the greatest to shore up our work or activities planned for the year. With regard to the Church and the Christian life, it is doubly tempting to incorporate fresh new ideas to renew or revitalize the community. Instead, this book stops us on such a track and forces us to examine old paths instead of seeking new ways. It makes us ponder at the tried-and-tested disciplines instead of relying on the latest and the most novel options available today. Two words sum up the old disciplines needed: Prayer and Bible. It is most timely and timeless. Timely because of the relevance to the needs of today; Timeless because it is applicable throughout the ages. By re-examining the tenacity of the faith and practice of the early Church. While many of us in the modern Church tend to pray in the context of ministry, the early believers minister in the context of prayer. The difference is stark because modern believers treat prayer as a means to an end and practice it only as a department of the overall ministry. This is all wrong. It should be prayer as the context of all ministries. The same applies for the ministry of the Word. This principle is taken from Acts 6:4 which is about how the apostles said: "will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
Only two things you may ask? Yes. Written in four parts, Henderson pushes forth this key point throughout. In Part One, he points out the sufficiency of these two practices in the life of Jesus, that while many people do praying in the context of ministry, Jesus ministered in the context of prayer. Indeed, many leaders have substituted the disciplines of prayer with the distribution of work. They have drifted from the old paths and adopted new ways to do ministry. Ways like innovation, missional initiatives, attractive programs, and impressive growth strategies. Unless we address this growing drift, our future looks bleak. He spends time re-examining leadership and argues that the Church needs a leadership renovation. It is received rather than achieved. It is to make the main thing, the main thing. It is to overcome the many distractions, including well-intentioned ministries. Like the Acts 6 passage, Exodus 18:19b-22 teaches us to be prayerful; to be teachers of the Word; and to empower others to serve as the key tenets of ministry. These three priorities are to be maintained, modeled, mastered, multiplied, and mobilized. Part Two is an exciting section that describes pastors who put prayer into action. The author writes about how Jim Cymbala's sermon, "My House Shall be a House of Prayer" moves him. He leads us through the seven stages of prayer leadership, until these becomes a rhythm. He lists the seven vital truths behind creating a culture of prayer. He shows us how to lead life-giving prayer times. He is not interested a mere praying program but a praying church.
Part Three is about preaching and the Word of God. A high view of Scripture will naturally lead to a diligent study toward understanding the Scriptures. Seek spiritual unction instead of technological function. Holy utterance is preferred to hasty relevance. It comes down to the character of the preacher. Is he a lead worshiper? Is he humble and authentic? Is he depending on God more or on his own strength? The biggest question of all is this: Is God with him? The practice of prayer and faithfulness to the Word is testament to this. Part Four sums up the whole book with a call to share and to spread the truths of prayer and faithfulness to the Word, through missional agents.
Wow! This book certainly drives home the need for prayer and the Word as one entity needed for all ministry. Brilliantly titled as "old paths, new power," it is a call to all ministers of God to get back to the fundamentals. Ministry has not changed. Even though the contexts have changed, the Word of God and the ways of the Spirit remain the same. By focusing on leaders to kick-start the whole process, Henderson is showing us that the best way to change culture is via the leaders. That is one reason why he spends lots of time addressing leaders, and letting other Christian leaders such as Francis Chan, Robbie Symons, John Dickerson, John Piper, Jim Leggert, Jeff Wells, Alistair Begg, Kyle Martin, Jon Hoekeman, and many more to contribute thoughts and wisdom. Not only that, Henderson shares widely from historical figures such as Charles Spurgeon, GK Chesterton, George Muller, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, FF Bruce, etc, as well as contemporary leaders like John MacArthur, DA Carson, Jim Cymbala, Tim Keller, and many more. It is gratifying to see that many of these leaders have also benefited from the focus of prayer and Word in their ministries. Above all, this book points readers to God and all prayer and preaching is about seeking God and making God known, that others may themselves seek God and to make God known. As long as we maintain our focus on the essentials, we will not easily burn out. Instead, there will be constant renewal. If you are experiencing ministry exhaustion, or in need of some re-orientation in your ministry focus, this book will help us to re-calibrate our ministries to God, beginning with us.
Daniel Henderson has been a pastor to thousands in congregations in California and Minnesota. He is the national director of the 6:4 Fellowship (64fellowship.com) and is also known as a pastor to pastors. He has authored nine books and lives with his wife near Denver, Colorado.
Rating: 5 stars of 5.
This book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.