Paul Borthwick and Dave Ripper: The Fellowship of the Suffering

How Hardship Shapes Us for Ministry and Mission

The Fellowship of the Suffering
How Hardship Shapes Us for Ministry and Mission
(IVP Books, 2018)

WHO: Paul Borthwick, senior consultant for Development Associates International, and Dave Ripper, young adult ministries pastor at Grace Chapel and chaplain for the Boston Bruins.

THEY SAY: “Suffering comes with the territory because suffering advances God’s mission to the ends of the earth.”

BIG IDEA: How can we learn to live as fully and faithfully as possible despite the unavoidable and unwelcome presence of suffering? By entering into a deeper fellowship with God.

THE PROGRESSION: The authors, a Boomer and a millennial, share their personal stories of suffering beginning with the first part, “Welcome to the Fellowship.” In Part 2, “Fellowship with Christ,” they explain that as we go through suffering, we need to be praying. And through suffering, we are transformed and can even have job.
Part 3, “Fellowship with Others,” shows that going through suffering can create common ground with others in the “fellowship.”
Part 4, “Fellowship with the World,” examines the idea that “the seed must die to multiply.”

“Our willingness to faithfully suffer with Christ, like Christ and out of passionate love for Christ is how the transformative power of Christianity is most fully unleashed for the good of the world.”

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A 2019 Outreach Also Recommended Resource—Ministry Leadership Category

“This resource offers readers a helpful perspective on what best shapes us for ministry leadership.”

Evaluated by Ron Edmondson, CEO of Leadership Network who previously served for 16 years as a senior pastor. He also has over 20 years of experience in the business world.


The question of suffering is one of the most difficult to answer. Why did you decide to address it?

Though none of us want suffering and hardship, we want people to know that these are normal aspects of the Christian life—illustrated by the life of Jesus, testified to in the Scriptures, and repeated through Christian history. The Fellowship of the Suffering establishes the direct link between our suffering and hardship with our personal growth as well as our participation in God’s Great Commission. We want to help people understand the advancement of God’s kingdom through suffering.

Describe the approach you take to suffering.

Suffering comes as such a surprise to most Christians, especially we Christians raised in the West. This surprise has emerged from our weak theology coupled with an American approach to life that says, pursue pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. This line of thinking is pervasive in the church and in our culture today, and is clearly counter to the message, mission, and example of Christ. Our aversion to suffering may be the greatest inhibitor to our personal growth as disciples and correspondingly to the growth of the church.

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What do you want readers to learn about suffering?

We don’t want to romanticize or simplify suffering, but we do want readers to understand that concepts such as suffering, hardship, tribulation, affliction, and more are a normative part of following Jesus Christ. With this in mind, we define suffering in a broad, accessible, and relatable way. Elisabeth Elliot defined suffering as “having what you don’t want, or wanting what you don’t have.”

We want readers to know the significance and potential of suffering from both a personal and global perspective. Suffering not only transforms our faith and relationship with God individually, but has been a catalyst for the rapid spread of the gospel in the Majority World. Real-life stories will be provided from all over the world to make these principles concrete, memorable, and livable. In our communication, we write from the platform of fellow sufferers and learners in this topic, including our personal stories ranging from chronic diseases, to crushed dreams, to dysfunctional family life, and to personal losses along the way.

We hope to issue a prophetic call for every follower of Jesus to be willing to embrace the call to grow through difficulties, circumstances, and suffering that they might never choose for themselves but which present themselves as the realities of their lives.

We want to hear through our voices that these lessons are not easy but a commitment to grow through our struggles. We hope that we have provided an uncommon vantage point into this topic by blending the voices of a millennial (Dave, age 32) and boomer (Paul, age 63).

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