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The Relational Pastor: Sharing in Christ by Sharing Ourselves by [Root, Andrew]
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Review

"I have long suspected the 'folk ecclesiology' of most evangelical churches could not support missional and/or incarnational ministry for the long haul. Andrew Root's The Relational Pastor helps me see this problem anew in a helpful way. In the process he points a way forward to a robust theology that grounds the church in our God who has become flesh in Jesus Christ. What this means for personhood, relationship and community is astounding. Thank you, Andrew Root. I needed this book."--David Fitch, B. R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, and author of The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness

"Several years ago, I encountered the work of Andrew Root, and while it was primarily focused on youth ministry, it radically changed the way I engaged my own work as a congregational pastor. With The Relational Pastor, Root takes the seeds of what I saw and coaxes them into a full-fledged tree, teeming with wonderful fruit. "By reorienting our perspective from relating to others as 'the sum of their decisions' to 'a mystery to be encountered, ' Root has offered ministers of all stripes the opportunity to live and encounter the incarnation, not as a doctrine to be learned but a reality to be lived."--Rev. Landon Whitsitt, author of Open Source Church

"So much of what passes for pastoral ministry resources these days is either thinly veiled pragmatism or a sentimental call to return to a bygone era. Thankfully, Andy Root defies that trend. Instead, he has developed a deep and robust theology of pastoral ministry that engages the imagination and invites embodiment. He achieves this by interacting with compelling research drawn from a wide variety of disciplines that he thens interprets in (and for) the context of the local church. The Relational Pastor is an important book whose time is now."--Tim Keel, senior pastor of Jacob's Well Church and author of Intuitive Leadership

"In an age where connecting with people via technology and social media has quickly become the norm, Andy Root has spent much energy reminding youth pastors what it means to connect and be in relationship with others in the context of their ministries. The Relational Pastor is a convicting call to pastors at all levels to remember what it is to be Christlike and incarnational in regards to our relationships. This is a must-read for any pastor who believes that relationships with people are at the core of not just ministry but of our understanding of Jesus Christ and our intimacy with him."--Kris Fernhout, pastor of student ministries, Christ Community Church

"I have always been fascinated by the African Ubuntu saying: 'I am because we are.' The suggestion that without you I cannot be myself is radical and transformative. Such a way of understanding human persons opens up a very different relational space, one which stands in stark contrast to our individualistic assumptions and the whole idea that we are 'our own people.' Andrew Root understands this dynamic; more than that, he shows us how we might live it. With grace and imaginative commitment he carves out a quite beautiful model of relational discipleship and relational church. If you are interested in what love looks like, this book is for you."--John Swinton, Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen

"This is a scary book. It threatens to expose the tricks we pastors use to influence some and to motivate others; it threatens to uncover our egoism and reveal how often we protect our fiefdoms. The Relational Pastor is a call to live authentically. It's an invitation to be honest about who we are and what keeps us awake at night; and finally, it's a call to the only life worth living a real one."--Rev. Laura S. Truax, senior pastor, LaSalle Street Church"

"It is not often you find a work that is so full of practical relational insight, while maintaining theological depth. Root's work doesn't offer anything shockingly novel, but it is a theologically rich call to refocus on the relational side of ministry."--Andrew E. Stoddard, Leadership Journal, Winter 2014

"If you are a pastor wearied by the tempations to produce and hungry for simple connection with others (simple pastoring), you will find a friend here."--Winn Collier, Religious Herald, November 25, 2013

"I cannot imagine any pastors going through seminary today not reading this important book."--Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary (IL), on www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed

"By reorienting our perspective from relating to others as 'the sum of their decisions' to 'a mystery to be encountered, ' Root has offered ministers of all stripes the opportunity to live and encounter the incarnation, not as a doctrine to be learned but a reality to be lived."--Rev. Landon Whitsitt, author of Open Source Church

"Most pastors and ministry leaders will affirm that relationships are at the heart of ministry. Root's concern, however, is that relationships have become the tool of ministry--simply a means to earn the loyalty of people to our programs or our brand of Jesus to our ministries grow. Thus, building relationship ministries becomes a strategy rather than a sincere effort to connect with people. . . . Root's concern is important and discussion-worthy, so recommend this book to pastors, group leaders, and key ministry leaders."--David Mundt, CBA Retailers + Resources, July 2013

"Root gives compelling and well-reasoned arguments to the many benefits of ministers becoming 'relational pastors.'"--Jeff Friend, Worship Leader, March/April 2013

"Christian bookstore shelves are flooded with books for pastors with formulas and models for effective ministry in churches today, and most pastors will admit to having worked towards implementing many of them with minimal success. In contrast is Andrew Root's new text, The Relational Pastor. Written by a self-identified introvert, this book sets aside formulas and models to take a unique look at the relationship between a pastor and their parishioners and suggests that it is within relationships that true pastoral ministry lies. . . . In the tradition of Andrew Root's writing, this a well-researched book that crosses many disciplines to build a solid argument. This text will contribute significantly to the pool of literature preparing ministry leaders today, and hopefully offer a challenge not previously extended."--Laura Widstrom, The Journal of Youth Ministry, Spring 2015

About the Author

Andrew Root is the Olson Baalson Associate Professor of Youth and Family Ministry at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of several books, including The Relational Pastor and Relationships Unfiltered, and coauthor with Kenda Creasy Dean of The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1709 KB
  • Print Length: 255 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (4 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BFRWK2I
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Amazon.com: HASH(0xa103a648) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa105d804) out of 5 stars relational is relational 6 April 2013
By Clint Schnekloth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It takes considerable skill and creativity to reconceptualize the definition of pastor for the 21st century. There seems to be a rather tight cultural lock on how the role of pastor is defined in our culture. Additionally, it takes some chutzpah to attempt to write a book that is simultaneously addressed to a popular audience and wrestles with neuroscience research, Bonhoeffer studies, Derrida, and more.

Andrew Root pulls it off. Root, who churns out a new book or two per year, writes with a breezy prose I wish more theologians would emulate. He risks simplifying his arguments a bit in order to make them accessible, but kudos to him, because people are actually reading Root.

If Andrew Root has a "shtick," it is this: he is concerned that even the notion of being "relational" or incarnational is at times in Christian ministry instrumentalized. In his first book, Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry: From a Strategy of Influence to a Theology of Incarnation, he took issue with a type of youth ministry he observed happening (especially in evangelical circles) where relationships were cultivated not for themselves, but for the influence they might have to win youth for Christ.

Root offers an alternative, grounded out of Bonhoeffer, of "place-sharing" (Stellvertretung). In this model, relationships are not a means to an end, but are the ends themselves. The relationship is the ministry, regardless of outcomes or influence. We are called, in Christian faith, to share our lives and our places with each other.

When Root wrote that book, many readers immediately saw the implications of it for a wider set of ministries than simply youth ministry. Root waited a few years, then came back to the topic with this book, focused specifically on pastoral ministry.

Although pastoral ministry is a rich and complex profession, for the most part many theologians and church leaders (and even the popular culture) seems to know what it is they mean when they call someone a pastor. A lot of ink is spilled printing new books on pastoral ministry and ecclesiology. Much if not all of it continually plows again fields already furrowed. This is not all bad. We need to read things to remind us of who we are. We need innovative ideas and fresh approaches even if they are treading again ground we have already tread (for a list of great books about pastoral ministry, see [...]).

However, Andrew Root definitely moves the conversation forward, and will move readers with his compelling narrative. For my money, the most compelling proposal in the book is his early thesis, in which he writes (having concluded a two chapter survey of how previous eras of human history conceived of the notion of a spiritual leader or pastor):

The time is right contextually to recover and deepen the theological perspective (of ministry as participation in the life of Christ through the personhood of the other, through relationship), helping to redefine pastoral ministry beyond te priestly reader, moral exemplar or self-help entertainer. Instead, the aim is to see the pastor as convener of empathic encounter of personhood, as the one who invites congregation members into relationships of place sharing with those in and outside the church.

Root's book is not a how-to book, offering a model for successful ministry. For that, readers will need to look elsewhere. Instead, Root, in chapters on the definition of personhood, the neurological implications of relationships, and even an engaging chapter on the connection between the hypostatic union and relational ministry, steadfastly refused to instrumentalize relationality and sticks with an exploration of relationships for their own sake.

Because of this, it is somewhat hard to imagine, at times, what this proposal for pastoral ministry might look like in various contexts. Andrew offers winsome accounts of how relational ministry takes shape in his wife Kara's small south Minneapolis congregation. These stories alone (especially the chapter titled "What this looks like") as analogy for our various ministries are themselves worth the price of the book. On the other hand, it is sometimes difficult to understand or imagine how relational pastoral ministry might work for pastors in rather large congregations (unless the relationships in which they convene empathic encounter of personhood are among the staff they lead).

However, this is more my failure of imagination than anything. Root's concept is new and challenging enough it requires creative iteration in congregational contexts other than the ones Root is himself closest (and married) to. The value of Root's narrative: he tells the story of congregations and pastoral ministry he deeply loves and cherishes.

Finally, a challenge and a recognition. One risk in Root's approach is to oversimplify. Sometimes he swims out into deep waters, then bails when it is rough. This is most often the case when he engages streams of philosophy. For example, he names the "impossibility of the gift" in Derrida, only to then abandon the theme and claim there are gifts that are possible--yet the gift he names as possible is precisely the kind of gift Derrida argues is impossible.

I would like to challenge Root, in future books, to dig in, remain with the difficulty of the material he encounters. This is itself, ultimately, more relational.

Then the recognition: I can hardly thank him enough for his final chapter. It is so much in alignment with my current thoughts on pastoral ministry that I felt as if someone standing close to my own heart had written it. The sub-title of the chapter, "leadership as letting relationships flow," is precisely how (on my best days) I hope to function. Rick Foss of Luther Seminary once told me, "Most jobs are a set of tasks with relationships embedded. Pastoral ministry is somewhat unique in that it is a set of relationships with tasks embedded."

Root says it this way: "We are professional persons, persons blessed with the gift (the financial, professional gift) of tending to our personhood as a way of tending to others." This is not personhood as individualism, but personhood as "being in relationship." It is true, and it offers a way forward for all pastors wondering how they shall be pastor in a culture and context where authenticity, networks, and time are such strangely different and precious commodities.

I have been recommending this book for young people (really, anyone) considering pastoral ministry. It will help readers see a way forward for imagining the emerging sense so many have of what Christian ministry will mean and can mean as it reclaims participation in Christ as participation in one another's lives.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa10642a0) out of 5 stars Pastors in Relationship 27 April 2013
By James R. V. Matichuk - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Ministry is relational. This seems like a no-brainer; yet as ministers we often fail to nurture relationships. We focus on preaching and teaching and fill our time with other tasks. When we do "relational ministry" we are often seeking to expand our own influence (or the church's influence) in our communities. For example, "friendship evangelism" or "incarnational ministry" are ways of using relationships to accomplish something rather than enjoy relationships for their own sake.

The Relational Pastor points to a different way of ministry which is relational, theologically-grounded and respectful of personhood. Andrew Root is associate professor of youth and family at Lutheran Seminary and the author of The Children of Divorce, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry and Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry. In The Relational Pastor, he widens his audience to address all pastors (not just youth pastors). I think this is a great book and its message excites me. Root offers a robust view of relationships, rooted in place. He commends a mode (not a model) of ministry which attends to personhood and participates in the life of God and other persons through the Incarnation. If you are a pastor or in ministry, you need to read this book!

I know people just looking for a recommendation don't read overlong reviews online, so I am telling you upfront this is a ★★★★★ review and I am adding it to my essential ministry bibliography. Below is a detailed walk through the sections of the book(the headings below are my own) and some of the insights I find most helpful. [ If you skip down to the end, I'll give you my thoughts on why this book is so valuable].

Where We Are

Root begins his book by riffing off of Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathetic Civilization (Penguin, 2009). Rifkin argued that when societies shift to new forms of energy, a new social consciousness is born. Root draws out the pastoral implications of Rifkin's theory. In the hunter-gatherer era, ministers were the cosmic storytellers. In the agricultural transition, we see the birth of the priesthood, and religion was `the proprietor of civilization' (30). The first industrial revolution (steam and coal) saw ministry as `perpetuating and protecting a way of life (33).' Often pastoral ministry in this period was blended with nationalism.

The shift to electric and managed oil energy has given birth to the model of ministry which has dominated in the latter part of the twentieth century. In this era, ministry is seen through the lens of programs of intervention ( 38) and the pastor has become the entrepreneurial manager and self-help entertainer. This period has focused on ministry to individuals and meeting individual needs.

Root (with Rifkin) believes we are on the precipice of a new energy shift which paves the way for some major rethinking. Root urges a shift away from individualism, and managerial models of ministry towards relationships and personhood. Certainly the Emergent Church movement has raised a similar critique of late modernity. The buzzwords of relationship and community abound in their writings. What Root provides here is more constructive and theologically robust view of "what relationships are and how they mediate the mystery of God's very presence" (43).

From Individuals to Personhood

One of the hallmarks of individualism is that we each act with our own self interest in mind. Ministry in the oil regime (the era of individualism) leads us to concentrate on entertainment and a self-help message as we pander to the interests and wants of individual congregants (48-51). Furthermore, individualism results in the objectification of other people (51). People are either useful to us to achieve our own ends or they represent an impediment. This poisons relationships and means the best we can hope for where individualism reigns supreme is a `you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours agreement" (53).

And yet we long for connection-to see and be seen-and to participate in the lives of those around us . Root argues that persons are their relationships and we understand ourselves through our connection to other people and God (62-3). This means that pastoral ministry (as it is being recast) has less to do with the functions of ministry and more to do with the pastor responding to God's call to `open her or his spirit up to the spirit of the flock' (68). This doesn't negate pastoral tasks (i.e. preaching, ministering the sacraments, evangelism, etc.), but the functional wants of our job should not crowd out `the personal.'

Root argues that personhood is defined by mutual indwelling (remember we are our relationships). How do we indwell one another? We indwell by acting with and for the other (76), through communication (79), through sharing in embodied and spiritual realities because people are embodied-spirits (81-6), and by entering into the brokenness of another (86).

Empathy and Incarnation

Root explicates this mutual indwelling by exploring empathy and the implications of the Incarnation for personhood. The language of empathy is borrowed from Rifkin (The Empathic Civilization) and represents a response to the call towards indwelling by our responding to the brokenness of the other. In the era of self-help entertainer, feelings were avoided or managed and manipulated. However in this emerging era, empathetic sharing values the mutual sharing of feelings. Ultimately our ability to share in the suffering of others is the Spirit's work not our own.

The Incarnation provides the theological basis for relational ministry, our ability to indwell one another and share in God's life. Root describes the hypostatic union (that Christ was fully God and fully human) as the ground for our personhood and mutual indwelling. In his Incarnation, Jesus shared in our humanity and we share in the Godhead. This means that through Christ real relationship with God and one another is possible. The implications of this are far reaching.

In the modern era, the incarnation is often spoken of as God's `means' for affecting influence over us. When pastors, and ministers appropriate the language of `Incarnation,' they also tend to mean `living with people in order to influence them towards salvation.' Root critiques this by saying that the incarnation is not a method or technique employed by God (or anyone else) to get His way. Rather the Incarnation describes God's sharing of Himself with us. The Incarnation is not a technique but an outpouring of Godself and invitation to share in his life. We do not appropriate the incarnation as a technique but respond to God's self revelation in Christ, discover our own personhood and invite others to share with us.

What Does This Look Like

In Root's final chapters he brings home what this looks like (or could look like). This isn't a `how-to' section or a model (relationships are not static models). Root argues that one logical consequence of the incarnation and our embodiment is that relational ministry involves carving out and curating a space for mutual sharing. A pastor leads as `a person.' She or he does not manipulate others into `sharing life' but invites them into a deeper relationship with God and one another. This means seeing congregants as persons and not annoyances, obstacles, or assets. It also involves corporate expressions of prayer and modelling storytelling. This has implications for liturgy and for preaching.

Final Thoughts

This is the most helpful and best ministry book I've read in awhile. There is a lot to chew on here. I think that more theological reflection needs to be done in terms of our personhood and what mutual indwelling means. A lot of what Root says dovetails nicely with some of the insights of Trinitarian Theology and Ecclesiology (Zizioulas comes to mind). I loved the emphasis on the Incarnation and how that undergirds personhood and the role of pastor. Root's re-tooling of the pastoral role as creating and curating a place for mutual indwelling and person-sharing seems fundamentally correct and true to my experience. I want to incorporate more of his insights on prayer, place and story-sharing.

I really appreciated his critique of "Incarnational Ministry." As someone shaped in ministry by the influence of the Missional Church and development organizations like CCDA, I recognize my own tendency to turn Incarnation into a technique or a strategy to gain influence. Root critiques this by positing that the Incarnation isn't something `we do' but something done by God in Christ which enables real relationship and sharing of personhood to flourish.

I found Root an interesting author. He likes the same TV shows and movies I do, he reads some of the same books to his kids and shares interesting stories about his family and his friends in pastoral ministry. I felt like he shared himself in this book, not in a narcissistic self-absorbed way, but in a way which invites me (the reader) to share myself more and participate in what God is doing in our midst.

Finally I respect that Root doesn't turn "relational ministry" into a technique like "Friendship Evangelism" or "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Ultimately he describes personhood, mutual indwelling and relationship as the Spirit's work and a gift. Pastors still have a crucial function, but they don't "make relationships" or "make stuff happen." Their job is to pay attention, to act on behalf of the other, to communicate themselves, to respond to the brokenness of the other, and to pay attention to what God is doing in the midst of His persons. This is absolutely fantastic and should inspire some re-thinking (re-feeling?) of how ministry needs to happen.

Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Now go and get it.
HASH(0xa10641a4) out of 5 stars More than just good... It's important! 12 Dec. 2013
By Wes Ellis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't just good, it's important. If you're a pastor, a theologian, or just somebody who likes to think about ministry, the implications of 'The Relational Pastor' need to be wrestled with. It doesn't just provide a pragmatic solution to the questions of the Church's future, but provides a deeply theological rationale for ministry that cuts to the core of human identity and reality. Whereas the normative questions of practical theology are often skimmed or ignored in other books on Pastoral Ministry, Andrew Root sets up camp there long enough for us to do real justice to the pragmatic moment. This is a must read!
HASH(0xa105df24) out of 5 stars A good resource for Christian leaders 23 Mar. 2015
By Melvin J. Hammer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book with a unique perspective on the ordained ministry and its role in the community of the church and in the community of the world. I highly recommend it for pastors and lay leaders of congregations. It will allow you to take a new look at your vocation and how you are fulfilling it.
HASH(0xa10644bc) out of 5 stars Root is the New Bomb 6 Nov. 2014
By Rev. John D. White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Root is quickly developing a reputation as the new theorist in Practical Theology. Having read many of his books, I find them to be very illuminating and thought provoking. He is not to be overlooked or missed.
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