Congregational life presents a broad range of conflicts and dilemmas in which theological and ecclesial issues are entwined with the complex drama of human relations. Such challenges are also moments in which Christian witness can be clarified. This fictional narrative, which is followed by an analysis, is the second in a series. This story first appeared in Attentive to God: Thinking Theologically in Ministry and is used here by permission of Abingdon Press.

Being a senior pastor seemed to come naturally to Larry. He had grown up working in his parents’ business after school and during summer vacations, and he had seen his parents deal effectively with employees in many kinds of situations. When he went away to college and took some management courses, he discovered that his parents had intuitively been applying several management theories, especially those that called for helping employees enjoy their work and expand their capabilities.

When he went to seminary, he discovered some other ways of looking at how his parents had dealt with employees: he found theological language about empowerment and treating others as one might treat Christ. He had come to see one task of a senior pastor as helping the members of his staff to grow spiritually and to learn to answer more fully the call of God upon their lives.