While the overt theme of Life Together is community, the underlying theme is servant leadership. According to Bonhoeffer, a community can only be healthy if every thought and action is bathed in a spirit of gratitude and humility. Last week I wrote about how Bonhoeffer redefines the basis for Christian community: nothing less than the blood of Jesus. In this post I want to focus on his advice to pastors, in which he redefines ministry as we normally think of it.
In Chapter Four he writes of various ministries: 1) The ministry of holding one’s tongue, 2) The ministry of meekness, 3) The ministry of listening, 4) The ministry of helpfulness, 5) The ministry of bearing each other’s burdens - after which one has the liberty to do the ministry of proclaiming the gospel.
He concludes with the ministry of authority, turning it’s accepted definition on its ear (just as Jesus did in Matthew 20:25-28). Authority is not displayed via power, but through servanthood. A pastor who humbly believes that God has put him in authority over his people does not need to coerce or control them.
Jesus made authority in the fellowship dependent upon brotherly service. . . . Every cult of personality that emphasizes the distinguished qualities , virtues, and talents of another person, even though these be of an altogether spiritual nature, is worldly and has no place in the Christian community; indeed, it poisons the Christian community. The desire we so often hear expressed for “authoritative personalities” springs frequently enough from a spiritually sick need for the admiration of men, for the establishment of visible human authority, because the genuine authority of service appears to be so unimpressive. . . . The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. (108, 109)
This little book had enough “revolutionary” ideas to keep my head spinning for a month. Highly recommended for those of who have been Christians a long time and may be in a rut.