Again and again as I read Freedom for Ministry I found myself agreeing with the ideas, at least in principle. There were, however, two areas which caused me disappointment. First, it did not seem that Neuhaus had an overall organizational theme. He did not tie all of his ideas to the concept of freedom for ministry, at least not overtly. The book reminded me more of a series of brief vignettes rather than one cohesive unit. All the chapters did have something to do with the minister and the way he would view Christian ministry. Yet the connections were often less than clear.
Another area of weakness was Neuhaus’ lack of biblical documentation. He described his ideas well, and they were often ideas which had a solid biblical ground. Yet he did not approach the writing in this manner, apparently preferring to present logical and philosophical arguments on their own merit.
The points of view articulated were well reasoned and often startling, at least to a middle-aged adult some thirty-four years from the date of publication. Many social issues Neuhaus addresses are viewed quite differently today. For instance, when he discusses issues of family, sexuality, and abortion the presuppositions of American culture are those of abortion being recently and tentatively accepted, homosexuality being of little influence in culture, and marriage between one male and one female as a norm for adults. Race relations are front and center in Neuhaus’ mind as he writes. Conflict between Christianity and other religions is a relatively minor concern. This book, then, demonstrates that our world is always changing. The conflicts which are important to one generation may or may not be to the next. Yet they are always important conflicts.
Through all of our cultural changes we are left with one abiding truth. Jesus is Lord of all. He is that sovereign whom we serve. Though his authority is disputed in every age and every culture, though his kingdom functions differently from the kingdoms of this world, he remains the Lord in whom all things hold together. It is the responsibility of Christians, and especially of Christian ministers, to be faithful ambassadors for Christ’s kingdom. We do this not by following our culture, but by following our Savior. This is the freedom for ministry which Neuhaus would advocate.