Niebuhr, H. Richard. "Chapter Two: The Emerging New Conception of the Ministry." The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry. New York: Harper & Row, 1956, 48-94.
Niebuhr identifies two functions of theological schools. Their primary purpose he sees as "the intellectual love of God and neighbor" (Niebuhr 1956, 49). The secondary purpose, and the one they normally pursue primarily, is to train ministers. Niebuhr considers this an unbalanced way for the schools to function, as both operations are essential. He also alleges a challenge in that the concept of the nature of the ministry has been changing, yet schools do not seem to be understanding the concept clearly (Niebuhr 1956, 50).
Niebuhr finds that the concept of what a minister does is in flux to a greater degree than, for instance, a lawyer or engineer (Niebuhr 1956, 52). The tasks which will be done and the expectations placed upon a minister are always changing, leading to considerable uncertainty in both prospective ministers and educational institutions (Niebuhr 1956, 52). This uncertainty may well be tied to the tendency of ministers to have difficulty defining how they will carry on ministry.
Niebuhr proceeds by analyzing a historic view of what the work of the ministry is, how one is called to ministry, where a minister obtains authority, and whom he serves (Niebuhr 1956, 58). Historically, ministers have been occupied in preaching, teaching, leading in worship and other work of the church, and administering sacraments. Generally Niebuhr finds that one of the functions has emerged as of primary importance, and the others end up serving the primary one. The functions, in Niebuhr's situation, are all proximate, while the goal remains enabling the Church to love God and to love and serve the neighbor (Niebuhr 1956, 63).
Likewise, an understanding of the call to ministry has always existed, but may have changed over time (Niebuhr 1956, 63). In Niebuhr's estimation, there are four elements of calling. The minister must be called to be a Christian, have an inner sense of God's appointment, have the call recognized by someone who will provide training, and then be accepted by a church or church body (Niebuhr 1956, 64). As with the function, so with the call. Different elements have received greater attention at different times and places (Niebuhr 1956, 65).
The authority of a pastor is a complicated matter. Historically it was fairly clear where a minister's authority was derived. Niebuhr considers it much less clear-cut after the Reformation and especially in modern history (Niebuhr 1956, 67). Though the biblical record gives examples of prophets receiving authority directly from God, in general we have recognized the authority of a minister, though divine, as having a close connection to the work of churchly authority (Niebuhr 1956, 68). As with the other categories, Niebuhr finds that at different times in history the locus of authority may change, whether the minister claims personal piety, an appointment of the Church, or accreditation by a personal life of study (Niebuhr 1956, 72).
The final question Niebuhr finds about the concept of ministry is that of "the people to whom the minsters are sent as servants" (Niebuhr 1956, 74). Is he sent to the Church or the world? This question influences not only actual contact with people, but also the organizational goals and the type of preaching and teaching in which the pastor engages.
Niebuhr describes a rise of a concept of minister as "pastoral director," though he seems slightly ambivalent about the actual term (Niebuhr 1956, 80). He describes the role as it may be llustrated in church architecture, when the office and conference room, or many conference rooms, become the focus of the building (Niebuhr 1956, 81). Niebuhr describes this as somewhat of a throwback to the role of first century bishops as opposed to pastors - they were overseers of one church and its role in the community (Niebuhr 1956, 82). Not only is the preaching important, but there is an increasing focus on counsel. Niebuhr observes that "reconciliation [with God] is not automatically productive of wisdom (Niebuhr 1956, 83).
Niebuhr closes the chapter with a lengthy summation on the importance of discernment for the minister to grasp his social context and the way his role is to be carried out.