Ministry precedes theology

In The Soul of Ministry: Forming Leaders for God's People, Ray Anderson notes that "ministry precedes theology" (p. 3). By this he means that God's actions in history (his ministry) precede our concepts about God (theology). "It is through God's ministry of redemption that we understand the meaning of God's work..." (p. 4). Through obedience and response to what God does by speaking and acting within the framework of human history, we come to understand God's nature and purpose.

To test our understanding of this, Anderson asks, "Who was the first theologian in the Bible?"  We might think to answer Abraham. But Anderson thinks otherwise:
"Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are storytellers and actors in the redemptive drama and they, too, in living and telling the story of God's acts, expound a theology of God's ministry. But it is Moses who ultimately tells their stories as part of his account of God' purpose from the beginning of human history. Moses is the first theologian in the Bible, because everything told of the Genesis account of creation is written from the perspective of the exodus event.
"Moses is not simply a storyteller, a recorder of events. Rather he received directly from God a commission that carried a new content of revelation as well as produced a new event in salvation history [the exodus]....
"Without the theological paradigm revealed through the exodus, one cannot read and understand the Genesis account of creation, nor can one follow the subsequent unfolding of God' redemptive history.
"When someone asks where they should begin reading in the Old Testament, I never tell them to begin with Genesis, but rather with Exodus. Exodus is the theological beginning point that serves as the exposition and explanation of all that precedes" (pp. 3-4).
Anderson points to the third chapter of Exodus as this beginning point of theology. Here God proclaims to Moses (out of the burning bush) his name Yahweh (the LORD) (Ex. 3:15, 6:2-3). With the revelation of this name of God came revelation of God's purpose to redeem Israel from Egypt. Through this mighty act (ministry) of Yahweh, the innermost being of God is revealed - he is the Great I-AM, the covenant God abounding in compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness and forgiveness (Ex. 34:6-7).

Indeed ministry precedes theology, and this theology helps us rightly understand all that we see God doing, for God always does what God is.