As Baptists are thinking about ministry and its future and questioning of training and formation, I discover that back in 1971, a little book was published called Ministry in Question with essays by Caryl Micklem, Neville Clark (Baptist), Ernest Marvin and Alec Gilmore (Baptist). The book offers four responses to the 'crisis in Free Church ministry'. What is interesting is how similar the conversation today is to forty years ago!
Caryl Micklem questions whether there is a need for full-time professional ministry. He writes 'it is extremely doubtful whether we ought to be accepting any further candidates for "the ministry" conceived of as normally full-time'.
Neville Clark maintains that our present trouble is the obsession with making ministry relevant. He writes this:
The contemporary minister is deafened by conflicting voices, claims and expectations. There is the ecclesiastical claim ... to service the familiar structures, tune the motors and oil the wheels ... There is the secular claim ... to put [herself] at the service of human need and be foremost in charitable enterprises ... at all costs [she] is to be relevant ... There is the personal claim ... to be the hero of the faith ... [She] must count, be significant, make a difference.
He argues that ministers reassert their understanding as one of being shaped by word and sacrament, and ends his essay with suggesting the minister is perhaps best seen as a 'clown' where 'in word and life and action they embody the crazy, incredible paradox of redemption, whispering the story to those who will listen, singing it to those who will rejoice, re-enacting it in the incongruity of worship.'
Ernest Marvin argues that the minister needs be more free to engage with the world (i.e. life beyond the congregation). He speaks of the church needing to be re-structured for mission. He says this:
The minister ... is expected to preach, to visit, to counsel, but [she] lives in a society which does not come to hear [her] preach, does not require [her] to visit, and, if it needs counselling, will go elsewhere for it.
Alec Gilmore argues that we need to 1) re-vitialise preaching and worship - taking note of new forms of communication and being more grounded in rea life; 2) simplify church structures, what we might call shift from maintenance to mission; and 3) adjust their time balance to be more involved in the community, helping people discover their vocation, offering pastoral care (without it being a cover for evangelism), and'initiating new programmes of caring or education' and be a networker between various voluntary and statutory bodies. He writes 'the minister is the one free person n the community able to adjust [her] time if [she] wills.'