One of the best essays I’ve ever read on the practice of ministry is Joseph Sittler’s “The Maceration of the Minister.” Sittler reflects on how the seminary student is solemnly told that big concepts like the kingdom of God (basileia tou theou) demand a lifetime of study and reflection. But then the student becomes a pastor. Sittler’s description of the transition still makes me laugh out loud:
Visit the [former student] years later in what he inexactly calls the “study” and one is more than likely to find . . . a roll of blueprints; a file of negotiations between the parish, the bank and the Board of Missions; samples of asphalt tile, a plumber’s estimate.
The pithy paragraph came to mind almost every day of my final year of ministry because our congregation was moving through a major building project. I even had my own hard hat with my name on it, and I’d look at it sitting on my bookshelf and ruefully remember Sittler’s words.