02 Apr 2020: A Guide to Theological Reflection–Book Review
A Guide to Theological Reflection:
A Fresh Approach for Practical Ministry Courses and Field Education
Jim L. Wilson and Earl Waggoner
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020, 192 pp. $18.99
Reviewed by Angela J. Ward
Assistant Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado
The reflection loop closes the gap between God’s truth and your behavior.
The Israelites were tired, quarrelsome, and thirsty. Their leader, Moses, asked for God’s help. God instructed Moses to take his staff and speak to a rock, from which God would cause water to pour out, displaying his power and quenching the people’s thirst.
The water did indeed come gushing out. In one sense, Moses’ ministry was effective. And yet, he disobeyed and displeased God in the process. Instead of speaking to the rock, he chastised the Israelites and then struck the rock. His actions resulted in his prohibition from leading the Israelites into the Promised Land.
“Ministry effectiveness, as important as it is, is not enough,” write Wilson and Waggoner. Instead of going from action to action, they contend, ministers must pause for theological reflection: the process of “[bringing] together biblical, historical, doctrinal, and practical data with the real-world practice of ministry” (17).
This action—reflection—process incorporates a “reflection loop” of “identify—align—explore” (42). During this reflection loop, a minister (1) examines the components of a ministry situation, including his or her beliefs, thoughts and feelings; (2) works to align these issues with God’s truth, and then; (3) explores possibilities for future ministry responses. “With the reflection loop,” write Wilson and Waggoner, “you intentionally close the gap between your understanding of God’s truth and your behavior” (165).
In the biblical example of Moses and the Israelites at Meribah (Num. 20:1-13), Wilson and Waggoner wonder how Moses might have acted differently had he paused for reflection. Perhaps he would have recognized his own emotions. Perhaps he would have remembered God’s faithfulness. And then, perhaps he would have responded in faith instead of from frustration. Similarly, the process of theological reflection shapes a minister, which then shapes his or her ministry practice.Read More