Book Review: With “One By One,” David A. Bednar Demonstrates How to Make Your Ministry Personal
“The story of _________ is a story about a one—because the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”
That refrain, or others similar to it, appears no less than 42 times across Elder David A. Bednar’s One By One, which challenges us to think about our callings and service on a micro level and not get caught up in Church bureaucracy at the expense of ministering in the pattern set forth by the Savior.
Bednar’s premise is straightforward: that God knows us and works with us as ones, and that the entire purpose of the Church is to “facilitate the ministering of individuals and families one by one.”
The book is structured in such a way that personal experiences of Elder Bednar’s apostolic ministry bookend sections specific to the Savior. Indeed, the refrain cited above appears primarily in the second and third chapters, which are devoted to examples of Christ’s ministering one by one in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, respectively. These two chapters comprise approximately 41% of the entire book. Clearly, Elder Bednar means for us to understand the Savior’s pattern.
However, the personal experiences of an apostle are among some of the most salient. They serve as a reminder that Elder Bednar is also David Bednar, a human facing many of the same everyday issues all of us face. One terrific anecdote involves Bednar, in a ragged t-shirt and jeans, heading to a hardware store for some nails, only to be “discovered” by a fellow shopper who tells him, “Elder Bednar, the disguise isn’t working.” Aside from showing us that apostles do actually appear in public in “civilian” clothes, that story is used to illustrate the divinely guided interactions we have with others. The man in the hardware store had a nagging question that he felt only an apostle could answer. Then he bumps into one in the nail aisle.
Another example of divinely appointed meetings occurred when Bednar was traveling with a freshly called Seventy on a weekend assignment. He was looking forward to discussing the experiences of the weekend on the flight home with the Seventy, but on arriving at the gate, was informed that the flight had to change planes, and as a result of a different seating configuration, Bednar and the Seventy would not be sitting next to each other.
Understandably disappointed, Bednar slid into his seat next to a woman who was deep into her smartphone and headphones. Assuming this would be a quiet flight with time to himself, he opted to go over a presentation for another upcoming meeting.
However, after an hour or so into the flight, the woman pulled off her headphones, addressed Elder Bednar by name, and told him she had concerns and needed guidance. She apologized for disturbing him. We can learn a great deal from his response:
“That is why I am here.”
An apostle is not there merely to reorganize stakes, issue mission calls, dedicate temples, or write articles for the Ensign. He is there to engage in a one by one ministry. It’s no different for us no matter our spiritual portfolio.
To further illustrate that point, Bednar, who is no stranger to speaking in large meetings, states, “I have learned there are no such things as large congregations; there are only large gatherings of ones.” The message here, at least for this author, was twofold: 1) How well do I do viewing everyone in my congregation as an individual instead of as “the ward”? 2) If an apostle, whose schedule is packed with administrative items, is able to maintain the personal focus of his ministry as a Special Witness of Jesus Christ, then what excuse do I have for not doing the same?
Straightforward in a mode typical of Elder Bednar, One By One can inspire the reader to think more personally and individually about the way he or she serves. With a set of workshop questions at the end of every chapter, it can function as an excellent, easily digestible reference to aid your personal ministry.
|David A Bednar
One By One