A quarter century ago, I dreamed of being a teaching pastor. I burst out of seminary like a wild mustang in the rodeo, an impatiently raring dean of a parish about to become a mini–divinity school. Congregations under my care would learn sound theology and be shaped as faithful disciples. I would implant my newly marshaled information on scripture, doctrine and practice into the brains and souls of parishioners. I would be Martin Luther writing catechisms for families in Wittenberg, or Karl Barth diligently instructing his confirmands in Safenwil, or Evelyn Underhill leading deeply spiritual retreats.
James C. Howell is senior minister of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of What Does the Lord Require? Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly (Westminster John Knox).