One night over burgers and some libation, a seminary classmate declared, “Theology and exegesis won’t matter once you’re in the parish. All that will matter is whether you work hard, and whether they like you or not.” The rest of us scoffed, but now that I’ve been doing parish work for 25 years, I sometimes suspect that he’s right.
In 1980, Marilynne Robinson published her first novel, Housekeeping, which won a PEN/Hemingway Award and was made into a movie. She published nonfiction works during the next 24 years, including The Death of Adam and Mother Country, but kept her fans waiting until 2004 for a second novel.
Elijah, the great prophet who has traveled the length of Israel and spoken the word of the Lord directly to Israel’s king, is now about to take the longest journey of all. Somehow he knows that his time has come. His disciple Elisha knows too, but they do not speak of it. Instead, Elijah turns to Elisha and says, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.”
It was time to sit down with my church’s personnel committee and plan a new year, and I was ready. I knew just how to make the case for a salary increase: I asked for a raise to a level equal to 100 times our secretary’s salary. I explained that the standard metric for executives is a salary equal to 400 times that of the company’s lowest-paid employee.
Several decades ago, when I was filling out my application for seminary admission, I came to a question that asked me to provide biblical justification for my calling. I knew I wanted to attend seminary, but found it difficult to state why. Then I remembered my Wesley Foundation pastor preaching on 1 Corinthians 9:16b, and I wrote, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” The text expressed the urgency I felt and even a tinge of divine necessity—although I think I knew even then that I was going a bit too far.
Jason Byassee’s Team players is an important article for those of us who do ministry in the unique matrix called a “church staff.” When I am not behind my desk at the Christian Century, I continue to serve as pastor of what Lyle Schaller calls a “multiple-staff church.” His book The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church sit
When I asked my friend about his work as an associate pastor, he ripped into his senior minister: “He won’t communicate! He doesn’t even seem interested in what I do at his church!” When I spoke with a senior pastor, he sighed. “Sometimes with my staff I feel like my dad did during a long car trip. When we kids would get rambunctious, he’d take just so much before turning around to give us a good whack.”
Does life have any direction or purpose, any telos? A significant part of the popularity of Rick Warren’s “purpose-driven” books is his strong conviction that God provides direction and purpose for each of our lives, as well as for the church and local congregations. Many of us are uncomfortable with Warren’s specific formulation of God’s purpose or plan for people.