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The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians [Paperback]

D. A. Carson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2004
First published by Baker Books in 1993, The Cross and Christian Ministry presents a comprehensive view of what the death of Christ means in preaching and pastoring God's people. It sets forth work able principles for dynamic, cross centered leadership. Now available in paperback.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (1 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801091683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801091681
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.1 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 457,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

D. A. Carson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the author or editor of more than forty books, including How Long, O Lord? , Teach Us to Pray, and Right with God.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
DA Carson gives a clear explanation of 1 Corinthians and of the absolute necessity of keeping the Cross central to all that we do as individuals and as a Church as we serve the the LORD. He provides clear examples of how this should be done and of the dangers inherent in losing sight of the Cross in our ministry. Be encouraged and challenged to keep CHRIST and the Cross central to all you do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Carson Does it Again 1 Jan 2014
You can read my full review here:[...]
***In Brief Summary

What is wisdom? Seeing Christ, His servitude, the cross, how He glorified the Father, and living in light of that.

(Chapter 1)

My preaching, whether in a church or to one person, should be centered on the message (the cross) rather than the form to show myself as impressive. 

(Chapter 2)

I may think I am so wise, but I must remember I don't know anything about God unless the Spirit reveals it to me. " For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Cor. 4:7).

(Chapter 3)

If that is the case, why should I boast over any other preacher? Nobody has all the answers. It would be immature for me to make a special, secluded group if we are all the temple of God. The leaders are only doing what God gives them. 

(Chapter 4) 

So why should I strive to be a leader? The fame? The freedom? What about all that responsibility? The suffering? If Jesus is my example I cannot be arrogant, I am not the main character. 

(Chapter 5) 

So if we are all the temple of God, our allegiance to Him surpasses any culture. It doesn't matter what country you own up to, you are now a citizen of heaven. You do have rights, and you will have to give up those rights at times for the sake of the gospel.

***The Chocolate Milk

+ The final section (2:1-5) was of great benefit. Rather than paying mind to soon-to-be-eclipsed cultural values that could get in the way of our Cross-focused lives, Carson gives enduring principles from Paul on what should be at the forefront of our minds.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 28 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Great book.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cross & Christian Miinistry 12 Nov 2010
A helpful exposition which uses some of the alternative patterns of leadership in 1st century Corinth to highlight dangers faced by Christian leaders today.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A needed volume from an able and clear scholar 4 Sep 2005
By Nicola Gibson - Published on
I first read two books by Carson in undergrad- Exegetical Fallacies and his Exposition on the Sermon on the Mount taken mostly from his very good commentary on Matthew in the Expositor's Bible Commentary. I have also read a number of his other books, had him for two graduate classes and have profited immensely from his teaching also available from Crossway Media. I have his most recent on the Emerging Church, and it is a fine volume, with a few limitations no doubt, but of the kind of Biblical clarity and conceptual precision I have come to expect from Carson.

This is one of several smaller volumes Carson has written as expositions of parts of NT epistles. He has written one on discipleship form a part of Philippians, and Showing the Spirit is also from 1 Corinthians, but covers chapters 12-14.

This book has become something of a modern classic among certain readerships in the evangelical Reformed tradition, often recommended by people like Mark Dever, C.J. Mehanney, and the like.

This is NOT a normal Christian book on leadership. It is a biblical exposition of 1 Corinthians 1-4, 9 with an eye to Christian leadership as it relates to and is formed by a theology of the Cross. Yet it is a book on Christian leadership, since the first epistle to the Corinthians is much a defense by the apostle of his theological thinking undergurding his unorthodox leadership style- a style thought asinine and foolish in first century circles of Greek Rhetoricians (of which Paul was considered one since he was a traveling "preacher") and apparently to the Corinthian church also. Its lessons are more contemporaneous than one would expect from a 2000 year old text given certain showy and factional trends in American evangelicalism. Perhaps Hegel was right when he said the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. Hopefully not, and Carson can help us with that.

In terms of exposition, the book is fabulous if sometimes not riveting. Carson is a meticulous exegete, and his decisions on word meaning, syntax and his eye to the logical flow of passages, when combined with his grasp of ancient near east history makes for great and insightful exposition. He brings these passages to life. Yet none of the exposition if for exposition's sake, as these chapters were first lectures with a certain pedagogical eye to the global church today. This is especially important since these early chapters of 1 Corinthians (1-3 esp.) have been misused be all kinds of Christian leaders to support exactly what they argue against.

I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is considering Christian leadership of any kind, especially younger men and women of college and graduate school age. This is a good book to read early on the path of theological development. Being grounded in the cross and leadership lessons drawn from the very pages of the Bible is incredibly important in an age when authors, speakers and publishers seem to want Christian leaders to be good communicators and managers but are not as interested in men and women who have been formed around the humility and foolishness of the cross and it's implications in the nitty gritty of daily relationship conflicts and competing priorities at loggerheads.

The Christian leader who reads Maxwell, Hybels, Warren, Quinn, or a hundred others writing on Christian leadership- but misses the content of this book, will find himself either led astray by the worst of the contemporary writers, or without the grounded depth of the best of them- and so unable to overflow with potency from the depths of a heart executed and resurrected by the tutoring of the cross.

We must hear the message of this epistle, and Carson is an able and honest tutor.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Cross and Christian Ministry 25 Feb 2005
By Joel Barnes - Published on
Dr. D.A. Carson has become one of my favourite Christian authors, not only because of his great command of the English language (not to mention his familiarity with a dozen others), but because of his precision of thought. He has the ability to use his pen as a surgeon does his or her scalpel.

_The Cross and Christian Ministry_ is a small book (137 pages) that offers a commentary on chapters one through four and nine of 1 Corinthians. As the title implies, Carson is concerned with how the cross of Christ is central to Christian ministry, whether the topic is preaching, the role and function of the Holy Spirit, factionalism, leadership, etc. Though this is one of Carson's smaller works, it is packed to the hilt with intense theological reflection, cutting questions, and convicting applications.

What I really connect with in many of Carson's writings is the maturity and wisdom with which he addresses many sensitive issues. This is manifest in his ability to view issues from both sides, even when those sides give the appearance as polar opposites. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4 when addressing whether a Christian is to judge others, Carson remarks:

"...on the one hand we find Jesus saying, 'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you' (Matt. 7:1-2). On the other hand, he says, 'Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment' (John 7:24). This running tension is very strong throughout the New Testament. There is much that condemns what might be called 'judgmentalism.' At the same time, chapter after chapter exhorts believers to be discerning, to distinguish right from wrong, to pursue what is best, to exercise discipline in the church, and so forth - functions that demand the proper use of judgment....We may gain some poise and balance if we remember the kinds of people the two sides address. Prohibitions directed against judging have in mind self-righteous people who want to protect their turf.By contrast, biblical injunctions to be discerning or to judge well in some circumstance or other are directed against those who are careless and undisciplined about holy things, especially about the words of God." (2003, pp. 99-100)

And, of course, Carson seldom shrinks from the tough questions. In 1 Corinthians 3, he persuasively demonstrates that the text is misunderstood if one understands it to be referring to the Catholic teaching of purgatory (or even to Christians in general). In 1 Corinthians 9, Carson begins to lay out the nuance in Paul stating on the one hand, that he is not under the Law, and, on the other hand, proclaiming that he is under the Law of Christ. Unfortunately, Carson decides not to broach the issue, claiming it would take too much time to untangle.

My only disappointment with _The Cross and Christian Ministry_ is that it does not address all 16 chapters in 1 Corinthians! But I do whole-heartedly recommend this brief guide, nonetheless, to all who are looking for a serious, but relatively brief, analysis of some of the major themes in 1 Corinthians. The interested reader may also find the questions for review and reflection at the end of each chapter helpful and especially suitable for a study-group environment.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are a pastor, please read this book! 1 Mar 2005
By Neal Stublen - Published on
I have long enjoyed D. A. Carsons books over the past several years for their balance between careful exegetical work and practical application in the church.

In this book, Carson again brings these two things together as he runs through the first several chapters of 1 Corinthians (and one later chapter) to provide a glimpse into the mind of Paul and his approach to ministry. Whereas we sometimes have a tendency to read small sections of the Scriptures in isolation, this book does an excellent job of drawing out the common thread that runs through these chapters - the centrality of the cross in Christian ministry. Never does Paul's mind wander far from the source of his salvation and D. A. Carson does a great job of showing that from these chapters in 1 Corinthians.

Especially if you are a pastor, I believe you will find this book to be a worthy reminder of what is central in ministry and it will be a fresh call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. (But even if you are not a pastor - as I am not - you will still benefit greatly from reading this book.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for a thematic unity that perhaps isn't there 21 Feb 2013
By John Dekker - Published on
In this book, Carson presents an exposition of the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, as well as 9:19-27. The book started its life as a series of five talks, each concerning Paul's preaching on the cross: the cross and preaching (ch. 1), the cross and the Holy Spirit (ch. 2), the cross and factionalism (ch. 3), the cross and Christian leadership (ch. 4), and the cross and the 'world Christian' (ch. 5).

Although Carson's ability to synthesise Paul's teaching is admirable, he is perhaps stretching the point somewhat in his chapter headings - Paul only uses the word "cross" twice, in 1:17-18. He also uses the word "crucified" in 2:8, but by chapter 3 it would seem that Paul is no longer talking about the cross. There seems to be no particular reason why the cross should be seen as the over-arching theme of these passages. Carson counters this by saying that in the first four chapters Paul is addressing the 'bitter factionalism' of the Corinthian believers,and that behind this factionalism lay a misunderstanding of the gospel, "and in particular the centrality of the cross" (p. 70).

Carson is correct in his view that in order to deal with the factionalism present at Corinth, Paul had to address several misconceptions related to the nature of genuine Christian leadership (p. 93). In this way, Carson strives to bring out the unity of these chapters: the issues of factionalism, leadership, and wisdom are all closely related, and are intertwined throughout the first four chapters of the epistle. He says, for example, that the Corinthians love of pomp, prestige, rhetoric and so on, "demonstrated that they had not reflected very deeply on the entailments of the gospel of the crucified Messiah." This raises the question, however, of why Paul does not make more of this connection. Indeed, Paul seems more ready to speak of his own sufferings (as in 4:9-13 and elsewhere) rather than those of Christ.

Carson's effort at demonstrating a unity in 1 Corinthians 1 - 4 is commendable, and no doubt Paul does have in mind the gospel of a crucified Messiah throughout these chapters. This book is a refreshing corrective to viewing Corinthians as a collection of 'bits and pieces' - a series of points without any coherence. Nevertheless, Carson seeks a focal point that proves to be somewhat elusive.

This book serves as an excellent reminder of the true nature of Christian ministry, the consequences of spiritual immaturity, and the relationship between theology and practice. "The cross," says Carson, " is not only our creed, it is the standard of our ministry" (p. 40). This challenges the notion of "incarnational ministry" - according to Paul, it is the cross that serves as the model for ministry, much more than the incarnation.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Much Needed Reminder 3 Feb 2008
By Michael Leake - Published on
This work by Carson is actually an overhaul of a series of four talks given at the ICAA (International Council of Accrediting Agencies). In it Carson hopes to show what the Cross of Christ means for preaching and ministering. He faithfully exposits the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians and then moves to 1 Corinthians 9:19-27.

Carson's aim throughout this work is to show the centrality of the Cross in everything we do in ministry. From the central influence that the Cross has on biblical preaching to the mandate the Cross puts on our lives to take the gospel to the nations; Carson faithfully shows that the Cross is (and should remain to be) the center of all Christian ministry.

This book is not only for pastors; it speaks to every Christian in any form of ministry. This book will prove a much needed resource in the ever changing culture in which we live. If Carson's advice is heeded we will come to believe that the Cross is central (and effective) in whatever generation it is proclaimed. "Christ crucified" is just as much the power of God unto salvation in our day as it was in Paul's. As Carson says in his preface, this lesson "must be learned afresh by every generation of Christians, or the gospel will be sidelined by assorted fads." This work by Carson stands in the way of such fad-driven ministries, and faithfully proclaims Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

What I Liked:

As always D.A. Carson does a wonderful job of biblical exposition. He not only teaches on the Cross and Christian leadership, but he faithfully exposits the texts with which he uses. This book could be used as much as a commentary as a book on ministry. Carson is a wonderful example of expository preaching.

Also of importance is the centrality of the Cross that Carson repeatedly lifts up. One will walk away from this book with a new resolve and confidence in proclaiming Christ and Him crucified. Wonderfully woven throughout this work are ministerial gems. Carson grounds everything in the Word and then applies it faithfully; with warnings and encouragements.

What I Disliked:

A better word than dislike would probably be slightly disappointed. My only disapproval of the book is that it is not long enough. Carson has a wealth of insight on the Cross and Christian ministry; I was saddened after each chapter, as well as at the end of the book, that Carson did not share the depth of his insight with us. Nonetheless, it is a must have to any Christian library.

Should You Buy It?

I would most certainly buy a copy of this book. It will be especially effective for any young minister or newly appointed Sunday School teacher. A church could easily benefit by having its ministers go through a small group study with this book as its core. Also, I would be remiss if I did not encourage the reader (especially pastors) to pick up a copy of Arturo Azurdia's Spirit Empowered Preaching as well as Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching.
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