Home > Kregel, Reviews > Embracing Shared Ministry by Joseph H. Hellerman

Embracing Shared Ministry by Joseph H. Hellerman


Social historian and pastor Joe Hellerman addresses issues of power and authority in the church—in the New Testament and in the church today—in a fresh, culturally nuanced way. The local church, Hellerman maintains, should be led and taught by a community of leaders who relate to one another first as brothers and sisters in Christ, and who function only secondarily—and only within the parameters of that primary relational context— as vision-casting, decision-making leaders for the broader church family. Unique among contemporary treatments of servant leadership, Hellerman interprets the biblical materials against the background of ancient Roman cultural values, in order to demonstrate a social context for ministry that will provide healthy checks and balances on the use of pastoral power and authority in our congregations. (From the Publisher’s Website)


“Some ways of doing church readily lend themselves to the healthy exercise of pastoral authority. Others do not. This was true in Paul’s day and it is true in ours. The corporate culture that has influenced much of church life in America today, for example, tends to inhibit–rather than facilitate– Paul’s cruciform vision for authentic Christian leadership.” (From the introduction, page 17)


Many people have been hurt in church. This statement applies to both ministers and congregants. But this does not have to be your story. What if, as a minister, you could work with the support of like-minded individuals to lead your congregation to deeper maturity in the things of God? What if you as a congregant could trust your ministers to do what is needed for the growth of the congregation spiritually? These things are possible and Joseph Hellerman shows us how.

This book seeks to explore Paul’s vision for church leadership based on the book of Philippians. In order to do that, you have to understand the world of the Philippians. Joseph Hellerman has done an excellent job in researching and presenting his findings on power and status in the Roman world and the early church.

The first part of this book dives into the culture of ancient Rome and uncovers how power was used. The second part shows how the early church was at odds with this power struggle. The third part shows us how power and authority are viewed by the majority of churches today.

I enjoyed this book as a student of history. Hellerman’s presentation of Roman culture was both informative and intriguing. I was left hungering for more information and I was happy to see that the bibliography page listed some sources for further study.

It would seem that there is a renewed interest in how the early church did things. Hellerman does not disappoint those who want to know how the early Christians viewed the topic of power and authority. The reader is left to wonder, “How did we get so far afield?”

Finally, Hellerman answers that question in his analysis of power and authority in today’s church. But he does not leave us in this predicament without counsel. He calls us back to Paul’s vision for church leadership. It turns out that the message is the same: Do not let the surrounding culture tell you how to lead God’s flock. The Philippians were in danger of it then and we certainly have had our share of problems today.

This is an excellent resource for those seeking to understand how biblical church leadership should look and some of the pitfalls to avoid. I heartily recommend it to any who seek to lead God’s people.

Book Details:

  • Author: Joseph H. Hellerman

  • Publisher: Kregel Ministry

  • Format: Paperback

  • Page Count: 320

  • ISBN#: 9780825442643

  • List Price: $17.99

About the Author:

Joseph H. Hellerman is a social historian with a PhD from UCLA and seminary training at Talbot Seminary. Hellerman also co-pastors a church near his home in California. His other publications include The Ancient Church as Family, Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi, and Jesus and the People of God: Reconfiguring Ethnic Identity. (From the Publisher’s Website)

Where to Buy:

Disclaimer: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Categories: Kregel, Reviews
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