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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Reflective Book Critique: Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service, by Stephen Seamands


Reflective Book Critique: Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service, by Stephen Seamands


The King’s University, Southlake, Texas

The Spirit Formed Ministry (BIBM1302ONL2)

Professor: Dr. Leah Coulter

April 5, 2021


By Darrell Wolfe

Percentage read of Seamands’ text: 85%

Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Content Summary

Stephen Seamands asserts that understanding the Trinitarian Nature of God allows us as God’s people to minister in the Image of God; literally to be his Image Bearers. Seamands demonstrates the “ministry we have entered is the ministry of Jesus Christ, to the Father, through the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Church and the world”.[1] He shows that the ministry of Jesus was directed by The Father; and that there is a profound difference between doing things for God and doing what God said to do.[2]

As part of this philosophy, God’s character is seen in light of his triune nature. The fact that there are three persons who have dwelt eternally in relationship with each other, a Relational Personhood, means that God is by nature “relational”. He is not lonely. He has been for all time in perfect relationship within himself. This also means that God invites us (his creatures) into that relationship. In contrast to American Independence, God is intensely relational. There is a Joyful Intimacy among the godhead and a Glad Surrender each to one another.[3]

God’s triune nature can feel complicated to explain at first. However, there is a Complex Simplicity in the Godhead. As a map or globe are imperfect representations of our real world; so our understanding of God’s triune nature is imperfect.[4] Nevertheless, if we see triune nature we understand his thoughts and feelings better, it takes us back to his intensely relational nature. The Mutual Indwelling of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has invited us into the fold. We are invited to be one with them. While there may have been lone wolf prophets, the overwhelming theme of the Bible is team ministry. Paul and Barnabas (and afterward others), Peter and John, and Elijah and Elisha; God is constantly bringing his people into relationship with one another as they become closer to God (who is himself relational).[5]

In contrast to the two worldview extremes of “intense individualization”; or, the “total loss of self”, becoming part of some cosmic whole, the Trinitarian Worldview shows that even God himself can become “one” without losing his individual parts. While the Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are one, they are yet distinct.[6] Because we were created by this triune God, we can engage in Gracious Self-Acceptance, neither rejecting ourselves nor becoming full of ourselves. We reject the false selves placed onto us by brokenness and accept a vision for who we are “in Him”.

Having been rooted in the Image of God; into his Triune Nature; we begin to get a sense of his passion for us and then it extends to his passion for others. From the standpoint of fully accepting who we are, seeing ourselves as He created us, we can see other’s how He created them. We do not define them by their brokenness but by their created nature. We begin to feel a Passionate Mission to bring others into the family of God. And yet, when we attempt to establish own mission, we fail.[7] When we run off half-cocked for God, we fall on our face. We must first be brought into the united trinity, then hear the Father’s Spirit wooing us onward, then obey that call. It is only when our ministry and mission is rooted in being one with the Father that our mission will ever be fruitful.

Personal Insights

I find I frequently fall into the trap of “doing things for God” instead of “doing what God tells us to do”.[8] I have the idea that if I serve, tithe, avoid certain things, do certain other things; then my life will be blessed. In Biblical Studies this is called the retribution principle. While it is true to a point, it is not universally true. I may “do” all the right things and still have seasons of hardship. I am not in a contract with God in which he is obligated by my behavior. I am in a relationship with God in which he loves me, walks through the valley of the shadow of death with me, and walks me out the other side. Ultimately, it has always been about the relationship and not about the performance. This means that all he may be asking of me in some seasons is to “be still”.  If I will focus on staying connected to Him, and not on my performance, then when he legitimately calls me to into service it will be out of that relationship.

Authentic-Self remains my hardest battle.[9] They say an INFJ wants to present themselves as a complete image to the world. I lived for years thinking I had a light self and a dark self, and my light self was constantly fighting for superiority. Through some intense counseling sessions, I began to come to terms with the idea that both (Christian Darrell and Sinful Darrell) were facades. They were both false selves. The real, authentic Darrell was hiding beneath both waiting to be found. As I began to release the false masks I used to present to the world, I found the real me hiding underneath as Darrell, God’s Son.

As I have become more aware of my brokenness and my need for Jesus, I find myself less prone to come down harshly upon other’s need for Him. The things they do or believe may be “wrong” but that becomes irrelevant in the face of His presence. If I will focus on His love for me and them, I can put aside my ideas about their behaviors or thoughts.

I have also found that I “prefer” doing life alone when my greatest need is “community”.[10] As one friend recently said, we do not choose our community. You do not get to decide which community members are good enough for you.[11] You can have healthy boundaries and say no to requests. God will bring people into your life for you to love them, and for them to love you. You will all be different in some fashion. You will learn from each other’s uniqueness. He may call you into different communities in different seasons. He may call you to stay in one that is “uncomfortable” for you. But we were not meant to do life alone. If you put everyone through a “good enough” test, you will remain alone. Eventually, you must begin seeing the people He has brought into your life through His eyes. You must begin to choose the community which He has brought to you.

Ministry Application

I keyed into the phrase “If you rely on training, you accomplish what training can do… but when you rely on God, you get what God can do.”[12] Over the years, God systematically programmed me to release the mind and embrace the spirit. Lately, he has been restoring the mind to me through school, helping me achieve balance. The second, though, was not possible without the first. I say all this to say, I am not called to apologetics I am called to lead people into encounters with Jesus. When they encounter the one-true triune creator of all things, the questions and doubts of the mind tend to dissipate.

Meanwhile, after they are on board, he has gifted and equipped me to answer their questions and provide meaningful insights into the meta-narrative the Creator. This has led me to stop trying to “debate” people into the Kingdom; rather, to usher them into experiences with God. As people encounter the Relational Personhood of God, they find Joyful Intimacy and through that find Glad Surrender. All my arguments become a moot point in the face of tangible experiences with God. A few years ago, God told me that my Teaching Gifting would take a subordinate role to my Prophetic Gifting. I now see what he may have meant by that, it did not make sense at the time. As I have more prophetic encounters that lead people into relationship with God; I am beginning to see the fruit of it. There is an order to things. I must first work within my Prophetic gifting to bring them into God’s presence to have their spirit renewed before I can then use the Teaching gifting to edify their mind and heart.

The contents table of the text almost work like a roadmap. Understanding who God is (Trinitarian Ministry) brings one into experience of his Relational Personhood. This leads them into Joyful Intimacy and Glad Surrender. These then enable their mind to begin to grasp the Complex Simplicity of who God is and the Gracious Self-Acceptance of who we are In Him. This creates a Mutual Indwelling which fosters a Passionate Mission in us to bring others into this heavenly encounter. It is not going to happen through a debate in which I “win” the argument. It all starts with Knowing God, and then helping others know him.


Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Simon, Olivier. “Text Conversation about: Community,” March 2021.



[1] Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 20.

[2] Seamands, 24–27.

[3] Seamands, 38–39.

[4] Seamands, 107.

[5] Seamands, 154–55.

[6] Seamands, 117–19.

[7] Seamands, 167.

[8] Seamands, 26.

[9] Seamands, 127.

[10] Seamands, 32.

[11] Olivier Simon, “Text Conversation about: Community,” March 2021.

[12] Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God, 29.


Shalom: Live Long and Prosper!
Darrell Wolfe (DG Wolfe)
Storyteller | Writer | Thinker | Consultant @

Clifton StrengthsFinder: Intellection, Learner, Ideation, Achiever, Input
16Personalities (Myers-Briggs Type): INFJ


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