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Power in Weakness
Paul's Transformed Vision for Ministry

PAPERBACK; Published: 2/2/2021
ISBN: 978-0-8028-7125-1
Price: $ 25.00
184 Pages
Trim Size, in inches: 5.5 x 8.5
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Envisioning cruciform community built on resurrection hope 

After Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he turned from coercion and violence to a ministry centered on the hope of Christ’s resurrection. In earthly terms, Paul had traded power for weakness. But—as he explained in his subsequent letters—this “weakness” was actually the key to flourishing community that is able to experience God’s transformation, restoration, and healing. What would it mean for pastors today to take seriously Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to “imitate me as I imitate Christ” and lead their congregations in this way? 

Instead of drawing leadership principles and practices from the worlds of business, education, and politics—which tend to orient churches around institutional power and image maintenance—Timothy Gombis follows Paul in resisting the influence of the “present evil age” by making cruciformity the operating principle of the church. Gombis guides the reader through practices and patterns that can lead a congregation past a focus on individual salvation, toward becoming instead a site of resurrection power on earth.

Table of Contents

1. Paul’s Unconverted Ministry
2. Conversion of Paul’s Resurrection Imagination
3. Conversion of Paul’s Ministry Imagination
4. Pastoral Ministry in Cosmic Perspective
5. Cruciform Ministry and Image Maintenance
6. Cruciformity and Credential Accumulation
7. Cruciformity, Passivity, and Taking the Initiative
8. Cruciform Ministry Postures
Bibliographic Essay


Outreach Resources of the Year in Leadership (2021)

Christianity Today Book Award Finalist in The Church & Pastoral Leadership (2022)

“The words of Paul and the words of Tim work together in this book to offer us a fresh, compelling vision of ministry for the contemporary church. Let those who have ears to hear, hear.”
— Michael J. Gorman
from the foreword
“Could pastors need a conversion? Could the professionalization of ‘ministry’ actually set us up against God? Tim Gombis helps us see Paul as a pastor engaged in self-oriented ministry before he met Jesus, willing to use coercive power in order to move God to act on Israel’s behalf. Tim calls pastors to the same shattering renovation that Paul himself underwent and offers vulnerable examples from his own pastoral journey. This book is about Paul, about Tim, and about all of us engaged in the perilous vocation of shepherding God's flock. Kyrie eleison.”
— Julie Canlis
author of Calvin’s Ladder
“Tim Gombis is an outstanding teacher and an expert on Paul. This book confronts the disturbing postures of power that have become prevalent in the church and provides new possibilities for cross-shaped leadership. The compelling ways of thinking that Tim proposes have radically transformed my own approach to ministry over the last decade. I highly recommend Power in Weakness for pastors and leaders who desire to serve Christ and his church well.”
— Brenda DeVries
pastor, The Journey, Grandville, Michigan
“As a pastor for nearly three decades, I was constantly bombarded with resources on leadership. Many were not helpful, and few were biblical. Timothy Gombis provides a needed alternative to popular models of leadership, which can be controlling and coercive even when efficient. In Power in Weakness, Gombis applies the paradoxical nature of following Jesus (i.e., the way up is down) to Christian leadership. Gombis explores the apostle Paul with pastoral sensitivity and exegetical skill, offering us a Christlike, cross-shaped pattern for leadership. Power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Pastors and other ministry leaders, even if initially agitated, will ultimately be motivated to serve God with power discovered and energized through weakness.”
— Dennis R. Edwards
author of Might from the Margins: The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice
“This is the book I wish I’d read twenty years ago on my way into pastoral ministry. Every pastor takes his or her cues to some degree from Paul’s letters and example. Yet we tend to read Paul through the lens of our own assumptions. Tim Gombis puts Paul in his own world and helps us see how Paul understood his pastoral ministry.”
— Chris Gonzalez
president, Missional Training Center
“Most of the books I have read on pastoral leadership suffer from a fatal flaw. They try to ‘use’ Scripture to help pastors ‘succeed.’ But success is often connected to church size, money, power, and popularity. These kinds of books are misguided because they try to squeeze biblical material to fit into a worldly mold. Gombis subverts that approach by demonstrating the cruciform spirit of Paul's ministry. Power in Weakness blends biblical insight with numerous case studies in real-life ministry today. This is not only one of the best ministry books I have read but an incisive study of Paul's theology as well."
— Nijay K. Gupta
author of Paul and the Language of Faith
“What kinds of values shape our churches and pastoral leaders in North America? All around us we see churches, pastors, and ministries devoted to success, prestige, excellence, efficiency, influence, and church growth. But what resemblance do these values have with Paul’s consistent emphasis on God’s power revealed in the self-abasement of the humble Christ? Gombis provides not only a theology of Paul’s ministry but also guides us to think with Paul what it would look like if our churches and leaders truly sought to embody Paul’s vision of cruciformity. This is a vision of ministry and pastoral leadership our churches desperately need to hear.”
— Joshua W. Jipp
author of Saved by Faith and Hospitality
“Drawing on years as a scholar of Paul, in this book Tim Gombis translates and applies his scholarship to contemporary pastoral realities, shaped by his own decades of ministry involvement. The result is a goldmine of biblical and practical wisdom. In an age filled with pressures towards image cultivation, platform building, and power hoarding, Gombis offers a powerful biblical corrective: the call to lead is actually a call to cruciform ministry. This is Pauline wisdom the church today urgently needs to hear. I hope this book shapes the pastoral imagination of every current pastor and seminary student.”
— Kristen Deede Johnson
coauthor of The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance
“Tim Gombis provides an enthusiastic theological account of the apostle Paul’s personal and pastoral transformation by the risen Christ, a conversion to Christ’s work not only as Savior but also as shepherd. Power in Weakness lifts the reader to see the cosmically contested environment in which the church ministers, but also invites the reader to kneel with Paul to see the folly of human power and authority. Rather than offering a philosophy of ministry driven by marketing strategies, borrowing from contemporary leadership techniques, or aiming at megachurches and celebrity status, this book invites all Christians—and especially pastors—to adopt the cruciformity of Christ in the practices, patterns, and postures of their ministries and life together. Gombis offers a shot across the bow of many contemporary churches, not with a cannon but with the cross. May many take heed!”
— Edward W. Klink III
senior pastor, Hope Evangelical Free Church, Roscoe, Illinois
“I’ve been in pastoral ministry for over twenty-two years and deeply appreciate the theological and cultural insight found in Timothy Gombis’s book, Power in Weakness. Although the book is written primarily for pastors, it addresses the real challenges every Christian faces in a culture driven by branding and social media ‘likes.’ Tim’s ability to draw out key practices of the apostle Paul and compare them to modern-day pastoral ministry is illuminating, convicting, and challenging for all who seek to follow and embody cruciformity as a way of life. No matter how long you have been in pastoral ministry, there are great words of wisdom awaiting you in these pages. It provides a refreshing, transformative, and counter-cultural pathway for pastors to responsibly serve God’s people while drawing upon God’s resurrection power.”
— Artie M. Lindsay, Sr.
Pastor of Spiritual Formation, Tabernacle Community Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan
“Rather than power, influence, or personal charisma, Paul’s gospel ministry was fundamentally characterized by the cross of Christ. As a clear-eyed reader of Paul, Gombis gives an insightful account of Paul’s cruciform ministry, which, in turn, stands as a blueprint for selfless, Christ-focused ministry today. In a time when the charade of political influence, Instagram branding, and hyper-relevance has deformed the church’s message, Power in Weakness helps refocus the task of ministry through offering a full portrait of Paul as pastor.”
— Darian Lockett
author of An Introduction to the Catholic Epistles
“The apostle Paul is back in vogue! All-too-common criticisms of him are being supplanted with evergreen insights into how to confront pastoral abscesses, intellectual excesses, and megachurch successes. In this wise and timely book Tim Gombis opens up the theological vision of the apostle when it comes to power-mongering leaders in churches and society in a way that makes me even more fond of the apostle himself. The gospel Paul preached carried time bombs that continue to explode pastoral chicanery and ecclesiastical empires.”
— Scot McKnight
author of Pastor Paul: Nurturing a Culture of Christoformity in the Church
“If Gombis writes it, I make it a priority to read it. He has a unique ability to see connections and themes in Scripture that I’ve often missed. I had been conditioned to see and read Paul in a certain way that excluded his ability to mentor me as pastor. Thankfully, Power in Weakness changed that.”
— Carl Ruby
senior pastor, Central Christian Church, Springfield, Ohio
Power in Weakness work is equal parts insightful, challenging, and convicting. It shows that the path to genuine (and paradoxical) resurrection ministry is through vulnerability and weakness, not coercion, manipulation, or force. Dr. Gombis helps reshape both the motives and the methods of pastoral work through the lens of Paul’s tragedies and triumphs. For any ministry leader who wrestles with the common temptation of comparison, competition, or control, this book is for you. It certainly was for me. I recommend it to all Christians, and especially to those whose vocations include equipping the body of Christ for faithful service to the world.”
— AJ Sherrill
author of The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation
“I’m delighted to see Tim Gombis’s extended meditation on Paul’s pastoral ministry in light of the apostle’s dramatic Damascus Road reversal and transformation. Dr. Gombis rightly focuses his attention on the dynamics of power and weakness in pastoral ministry—Paul’s and ours. In my estimation, this is the key to understanding not only Pauline ministry in the first century but pastoral ministry in the twenty-first. Thank you, Tim, for this substantive and pastorally sensitive reflection on a hugely important theme for ministers. Highly recommended!”
— Todd Wilson
president, Center for Pastor Theologians
“In Power in Weakness, Tim Gombis urges the church to be truly claimed by the cross and to be the site of resurrection life through a cruciform posture of self-giving in the world. The book calls the believing community to be God’s agent of hospitality, healing, restoration, and renewal and to resist selfish ambition, pride, and the desire for control. Some will find it immensely insightful and affirming. Others will find it exceedingly challenging. But everyone needs to read it. It is a treasure trove of practical insights and Pauline scholarship.”
— Siu Fung Wu
author of Suffering in Romans
“Amid an avalanche of resources prodding pastors to be more effective and relevant there has been no shortage of books admonishing us toward a more ‘biblical approach’ instead. And yet much of that material focuses on a few passages or emphases, failing to distill the unifying essence of pastoral ministry. That’s precisely what Professor Gombis has done for us in Power in Weakness, and it constitutes nothing less than a revolution for our profession. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
— Sharad Yadav
lead pastor, Bread & Wine, Portland, Oregon