From this theologian’s perspective, the central challenge for pastoral ministry today concerns the most important mark of good ministry: the ability effectively to mediate faith as an integral way of life to persons, communities and cultures. This has been true throughout history, in every culture and for every community of faith.
"I have become all things to all people,” Paul wrote to the Corinthians, apparently not foreseeing how we would regard his wry boast. Today his efforts to ingratiate himself with very different people sound inauthentic, phony—and impossible. “You can’t be all things to all people,” is how one of my seminary professors put it.
The best part of my job is that Martin Marty occasionally sticks his head into my office, calls me “Boss” with a twinkle in his eye, and sits down to talk—as if he has nothing better to do. Along with Dean Peerman, Marty is a contributing editor and custodian of the magazine’s history and a steward of its favorite stories.
I grew up with books. My parents valued books and taught me to treat books with respect and affection. One of the unexpected pleasures of college was going to the bookstore to purchase the texts I needed and could afford, and carrying them back to my room—my own books. I still have some of them. And I still love the feel of a newly purchased book in my hands.
"You know, Mom, the trouble with our new pastor is that he needs us to love him so much that we can’t see God anymore.” This was the assessment of a 13-year-old boy talking with his mother about the struggles they were having at their church.
When my children were younger, they used to call the first Sunday after Labor Day weekend “Opening Day.” They were referring, not to that long-awaited day in early April when the first major league game is played, but to the Sunday when our life as a family began once again to be determined by the rhythm of the church year, church activity and my weekly sermon preparation.
When Pope John Paul II spoke at World Youth Day in Toronto a month ago, he touched on the current crisis in the Catholic Church, admonishing his young audience to not be “discouraged by the sins and failings of some.” Instead, “think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good.” That most priests and religious are worthy servants of
"Ministry a satisfying vocation.” Headlines like this one appeared in newspapers, church periodicals and elsewhere this past spring, as Duke’s (Lilly-funded) Pulpit and Pew Project reported the initial findings in a national clergy survey. It was not the only, or the most important, finding of the survey. But it was the one that reporters and editors found most fascinating and newsworthy.
Something has gone terribly wrong with Protestant clergy. The majority of them say that they are “happy, content,” as a recent Christian Century news headline proclaims (March 27-April 2). And since the Century says it, it must be true.