Ferment in the Ministry

by Seward Hiltner

Ferment in the Ministry was published in 1969 by Abingdon Press. This book was prepared for Religion-Online by Harry W. and Grace C. Adams.


(ENTIRE BOOK) As a pioneer in the development in the specialized ministry of pastoral counseling, and a teacher of Protestant ministers in various theological school settings, the author offers his assessment of the state of the ministry in the late 1960’s, a critique of the various forms that ministry has taken, and an description of creative new forms of ministry.


  • Forward

    The author’s thesis that while the ministry (circa 1969) was suffering from much criticism and a resulting "failure of nerve," this ferment need not damage the essential soundness of the vocation and its practitione

  • Chapter 1: Ferment in the Ministry

    A brief review of the prevailing charges made that many ministers are leaving or breaking down, and that the churches are dead or dying parts of the "Establishment" and isolated from the real world.

  • Chapter 2: The Nature of the Ministry

    The author sees the nature of the ordained ministry in terms of functions, or what the minister actually does, by examining the biblical bases and the historical development of ministry, and concludes that the church can only function with competent professional leadership.

  • Chapter 3: The Ministry as Preaching

    The dominant image of the Protestant ministry is of the preacher in the pulpit with an open Bible before him, which involves a rejection of certain aspects of medieval Catholic theology and practice, and results in some cases in pathological distortion of the preacher-pulpit-Bible image.

  • Chapter 4: The Ministry as Administering

    While stressing the priesthood of all believers and the universality of Christian vocation, the author insists that administering is as important as preaching — with the pastor in the role of guiding, counseling and interpreting in cooperation with the laity.

  • Chapter 5: The Ministry as Teaching

    The Protestant image of the minister as teacher has evolved from the formal instructor of creed and catechism, through a softer mothering Sunday school teacher stage, to an "instructing about instructing" image with minister and laity informally interacting.

  • Chapter 6: The Ministry as Shepherding

    The shepherd or pastor image of the ministry involves the caring, disciplining and nurturing activities that have undergone changes over the last century from that of doorbell-ringing and counseling models to a deeper and more descriptive image that encompasses the skill, accessibility and speed in helping needed in the variety of circumstances encountered by the minister.

  • Chapter 7: The Ministry as Evangelizing

    A constructive image of evangelizing requires a review of contemporary methods like revivalism and mission, and leads to the concept of the Christian, whether minister or layman, encountering others, whether as individuals or in a group, in a discussion of their expressed needs, and depends more on attitudes than techniques.

  • Chapter 8: The Ministry as Celebrating

    The central Protestant image of celebrating is the minister at table holding the elements with lay associate leaders by his side. However, this paradigm needs constant reinterpretation and expansion into additional images of celebrating.

  • Chapter 9: The Ministry as Reconciling

    Since there is no indigenous image of the ministry as reconciling, and since reconciliation suggests a process rather than a conclusion, contemporary models from group dynamics and marriage counseling are helpful in initiating and managing the process, particularly when reconciliation is not possible if both love and justice are to be served.

  • Chapter 10: The Ministry as Theologizing

    In Protestantism every minister is to be a theologian, to think and inquire actively. This image is rejected by American clergy as pretentious even as they privately theologize by thinking actively about what God has done and continues to do in specific situations in their ministering.

  • Chapter 11: The Ministry as Disciplining

    If the ministry of disciplining is to avoid the image of punishing, it must find its roots in the word "disciple" with its emphasis on voluntary commitment and self-disciplining, and an image of the minister in prayer as he both disciplines himself personally and professionally, and encourages the laity to do the same.

  • Chapter 12: New Forms of Ministry

    Beginning with the missionary movement in the early nineteenth century the church began offering ministries to people in special settings or with special problems, including military and hospital chaplains, and service to the disadvantaged in urban, rural, suburban and metropolitan settings. This has involved reconsideration of the appropriateness, education, funding and accountability of these ministries.

  • Chapter 13: The Unity of the Ministry

    Having sketched "cartoon" images of nine different kinds of Protestant ministry, the author finds a unity within the diversity in these images as seen in the centrality of the Bible in each, the being engaged with all kinds of people, and always on the same level with them.