The thing about preaching and pastoral care is that we often recognize our own problems in everyone else. I suppose that’s why pastors are so often hypocrites—we’re always preaching about our own issues. Then we have to live with the words that we doled out.
I was sitting in a seminary classroom, taking part in an internship program, and the professor was waxing eloquently about calling. It was all good. She was quoting Frederick Buechner and Howard Thurman, and describing vocation as our deepest joy and what makes us come alive.
A few years ago I was interviewing a couple of church planters, and the conversation turned to finances. The husband-and-wife team, Juan and Cirila Lugo, had paid out-of-pocket for many expenses when the congregation began meeting. They were pleased that it had become self-sufficient enough to hire Juan full time. Cirila told me, without a hint of complaint, about writing sermons on her lunch break while she drove a delivery truck six days a week. But she didn't call herself bivocational, and rightly so.
The call of Abram is one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. I have moved quite a lot, and the experience of packing up my life in England to move to the U.S. nearly three years ago is still fresh in my memory. The challenges that face Abram and his family are exciting, probably daunting, but certainly not without their cost. I love the way the call is vague about the destination: it seems that getting moving is more important than knowing the final details.
Beverly Donofrio had just been “looking for a monastery to join, for Christ’s sake.” She had closed her laptop, having bookmarked religious communities she might write to, then had fallen into a deep sleep. During the night she was raped at knife point in her home in Mexico.
I once saw children's ministry as a steppingstone to something else. This attitude put me in league with the hindering kind of disciples.
John Knapp tells the story of a businessperson short on cash, with a client who can't pay his bill. For Knapp, this case study highlights the great divide between work and faith.
"Jesus calls us to make disciples, not just converts," says Todd Friesen of Lombard Mennonite Church in Illinois. "I believe that discipleship begins in communal worship."
Seekers often want Christianity to be a set of ideas one knows to be true, or at least to provide a feeling of certainty.