Book Review: Authentic Ministry, by Michael Reeves
Reeves, Michael. Authentic Ministry: Serving from the Heart. Union Publishing, 2022. 85 pages.
When Michael Reeves calls Christians to Authentic Ministry in his new book, he does not mean for them to “be themselves.” He wants them to serve from the heart, but not just any heart.
When Reeves delivered the talks that would become Authentic Ministry at Union School of Theology in Bridgend, Wales, the president/professor there wanted to encourage a specific type of heart—one that enjoys God.
“Delight in God is . . . the root and happy secret behind growing in Christ, serving the church, and blessing the world,” Reeves says. “It is . . . the very ground and source of righteous living. So, friends, keep making sure of this: that all your ministry and all your life is an act of worship—full of prayer, full of praise, which are fuel for enjoyment of God” (16–17).
Authenticity for Reeves, then, is not an end in itself. The goal is not transparency, vulnerability, or realness, but rather a real minister, who truly loves God and people. So when you hear “authentic,” think “authentic leather,” not the pop psychology on your teenager’s social media feed.
Reeves wrote so his students “might not wear their learning like an impressive cloak to hide shriveled souls” (10).
Authentic Ministry is divided into nine marks of a healthy minister, to help readers heed Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves” (Acts 20:28) (9).
- Delight in God.
- Boast only in the cross.
- Pray boldly.
- Relish humility.
- Esteem friendship.
- Grow through suffering.
- Love the church.
- Be a theologian, but take care.
- Run the race.
If this is beginning to sound like a book for all Christians, then you’re hearing right. Like most of the pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, Reeves outlines qualities to which an entire church should aspire.
To be sure, he offers many specific applications for ministers. But you could hand Authentic Ministry to anyone who desires to serve others, and they would be pointed to something infinitely more important than anything they do with their hands—the worthiness of a God to be worshiped with all their heart.
And that’s the strength of Authentic Ministry. Whether you’re preparing to serve or celebrating 50 years in ministry, Reeves offers much-needed reminders of the essentials from which we sinners daily drift. And he writes briefly, devotionally, and enticingly.
- On praying boldly: “‘Sonship’ means being given the very relationship with the Father that the Son himself has. We come before the Father now, just as Jesus always has. Just as Jesus does!” (33)
- On esteeming friendship: “It is an anticipation of what fellowship will be like in heaven. It is partnership, allying together in warm, rich, personal appreciation. This sort of fellowship testifies to a friendly, personal God and an eternal hope where all fellowship involves true and holy delight” (58–59).
- On loving the church: “God created so that the eternal Son of God might have a bride to enjoy and share his all with, so that he could shower on her the oceans of love that were in his heart” (82).
A BOOK BETTER THAN ITS TITLE
When I asked my wife what she thought a book called Authentic Ministry would be about, she said, “Vulnerability.”
I hope connotations of the word “authentic” (at least in the United States) don’t zap the interest of potential readers. But that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone familiar with Reeves, who applies to ministry the same joyful theology he has so often trumpeted elsewhere (see his books: Delighting in the Trinity, Rejoice & Tremble, Rejoicing in Christ, Enjoy Your Prayer Life).