Those of us who no longer live in oral cultures may have
lost respect for storytelling as a vehicle of moral authority. Just give us the
facts, ma'am. We're data people, and we like it in writing. For us the
parabolic arts may be fine entertainment, but they're an unnecessarily messy
way of getting at the truth.
Pastoral ethnography is a strategy for listening to church members in a disciplined, attentive way. As a researcher, the pastor strives for a neutral attitude—which promotes honesty and greater understanding.
In C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, the best book of his that you've never heard of, he describes the original meaning of the Latin term natura as something like "sort, kind, quality, or character." "When you ask, in our modern idiom, what something 'is like,'" he says, "you are asking for its natura."
The dream of a ladder linking earth to heaven is surely
among the most familiar images of biblical literature. From "We are Climbing
Jacob's Ladder" to "Stairway to Heaven," the idea has been deeply embedded in
our collective consciousness.
While 94 percent of Protestant pastors believe their churches are safe places to talk about marital difficulties, fewer than half of churchgoers who divorced in the past five years discussed their marriage problems with their church’s lead pastor, according to new findings by LifeWay Research. High percentages of both churchgoers who divorced (77 percent) and those in healthy marriages (79 percent) agreed in principle that their church is a safe place to talk about marital problems. When their own marriages were failing, however, just 48 percent of the divorced sought counsel from their pastor. Smaller percentages spoke to someone else, and 31 percent told no one at church about their marital problems. Half of divorced churchgoers said their church prayed for them after their separation, and 43 percent said their church supported them (Baptist News Global, October 29).