This Is My Story by Paul Beasley-Murray
A story of life, faith and ministry. A book for pastors - and for any Christian - who want the inside story of the pains and triumphs of a Christian leader
This Is My Story. A Story of Life, Faith and Ministry
By Paul Beasley-Murray
Wipf and Stock
Reviewed by Louise Brown, Alistair Ross and William Ruddle
Turning the tide in Altrincham (1973-86) - Louise Brown
Paul writes in the style of the man I have always known him to be. Forthright, unconcerned with winning friends, dedicated to Christ and truth. This book is very much his story from his perspective; full of life, colour, drama and reflection. The man he reveals in this book I know. Passionate about ministry, living at 1000 miles an hour and in need of the support of his family and friends.
As I read I could hear his voice and see him sitting in the kitchen dinner at the manse of Altrincham Baptist Church. The picture he paints of his ministry is one I witnessed. As a child I came to faith in Jesus with my family at the height of the church's growth. He was intimately involved in our lives and some 30 years on is still a keen advocate of my family’s ministry.
I have enjoyed looking back at this time through Paul’s eyes. The book has helped fill in many gaps in my knowledge and understanding and brought back so many happy memories. Paul’s time at ABC was a happy time of faith and growth for the Church and I believe for Paul as well.
I recommend this book for those who have walked with Paul and would like to understand him better; for those contemplating ministry and wanting a greater understanding of what it involves; and for those who have heard from others about Paul and want to hear his story.
Louise Brown worked in Lebanon with BMS World Mission for the last 13 years with her family, supporting ministries with Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi refugees
Principal under Pressure - Spurgeon's College (1986-1992) - Alistair Ross
Paul’s chapter on his time Spurgeon’s College is a sad story and a cautionary tale. His hurt emerges as he expresses the pain and helplessness of this time experienced by his wife and children. Yet Paul is fair in his assessment. Falling student numbers, limited finances, and the major repair work required throughout the College brought inevitable pressures. Faculty members used to getting their own way found it difficult to adjust.
I had left College in 1983 before Paul arrived, but as a minister in a nearby church embarking on a part-time research degree at the College meant our lives over-lapped. I witnessed the divisions as they emerged and the distress this caused to staff and students alike. Paul’s larger than life character made it all to easy to focus on personality clashes rather than the underlying tensions, toxic institutional dynamics, and difficult personalities that existed before his arrival.
Some faculty were intransigent, believing the College council had made a mistake in appointing him and that he must go, a situation which some council members inflamed. Some faculty, student leaders, and council members were caught up in the ensuing in-fighting despite trying to be neutral. Paul felt they should have supported him but I can understand why they hoped to avoid the conflict. Paul also felt sad that a few faculty members would not be reconciled, despite his hopes for an ending that could allow the College and him to move in new directions, wounded, but able to heal in time.
Paul gives us a glimpse into the reasons why churches and institutions fail, as the Spurgeon’s scenario has been repeated in other theological colleges. Everyone survived, but at what cost? Paul’s subsequent time in ministry reminds us of the call to discipleship for leaders and the need for an on-going experience of grace.
The Revd Dr Alistair Ross is an Associate Professor (Psychotherapy) and Director of Psychodynamic Studies at the University of Oxford
Building for the future in Chelmsford (1993-2014) - William Ruddle
It was Dr Who who commented “a man is the sum of his memories.“ In so many ways this is true for the final third of This Is My Story. For all of the tools which Paul gathered during his early decades of ministry and the woundedness of the middle years at Spurgeon's, were laid at the feet of Chelmsford Baptist Church. This proved to be a season of rich blessing for both PBM and the church.
During his long period at Chelmsford Baptist Church Paul was able to give much thought to contemporary Christian leadership - its core characteristics and how to manage competing priorities. Anyone seeking a call to such a context would do well to read Paul’s thoughts on the matter, as he clearly developed an approach to ministerial leadership that blessed hundreds and hundreds of people both inside, and perhaps more importantly outside the church. His reflections on managing a church through change are also insightful.
Most of us reading an autobiography might be tempted to skip the appendices as chaff to pad a book, but in this case they are essential to understand the man: start on p202 and understand Paul’s personality, for his ministry was always authentically “So PBM!”.
I was disappointed in Paul’s second appendix regarding preparing people for ministry. Paul addresses these thoughts to the institutions and faculties while failing to recognise the absolutely critical role that the local pastor has in such formulation before candidates reach the hallowed halls of college. Not only is there an army of ministers who can attest to Paul’s support in times of crisis, but there are multiple generations of ministers who have grown up under Paul’s leadership and now serve the church here at home as well as abroad.
There is an old Indian proverb: much respect must be given to the person who toils the land and plants a seed for a tree under whose shade they will never sit.
Well done good and faithful servant!
The Revd William Ruddle MTh is a full-time police chaplain and former board member of Ministry Today UK