Spirituality and Church

The Pastor

Eugene Peterson's, The Pastor, stands amongst written Christian publishing as a giant. In the great history of spiritual autobiography from which we get Confessions and The Seven Storey Mountain, Eugene has staked his claim. As a pastor I have found his vision of my vocation to be exhorting, encouraging, refreshing and enlightening.

Eugene offers a brief definition of the pastoral vocation by drawing contrast to the way in which we often define it in America, which I have found quite profound.

"I wonder if at the root of the defection is a cultural assumption that all leaders are people who 'get things done,' and 'make things happen.' That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into out awareness from the culture-politicians, businessmen, advertisers, publicists, celebrities, and athletes. But while being a pastor certainly has some of these components, the pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who 'gets things done' but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to 'what is going on right now' between men and women, with one another and with God-this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful 'without ceasing.'" (The Pastor, 5)

Thank you Eugene. At the point on my vocational journey when I thought my calling would be swallowed up by the demand your words have reanchored my soul for that which God has shaped me to do.

Always On

 Lately I’ve been pondering the distinct differences between the various roles in my life.


Ideally without people

People are messy.  People are sinful.  People are uncomfortable.

In the last eight years of pastoral ministry I have learned much about this treacherous vocation God has called me into.  Pastoring is no light task, fit for the faint of heart.  It is a task done on the ground.  It is a job of manuel labor.  It is a job in which you get dirty, in which you constantly feel out of sorts, in which you feel ill-equipped and in which you are not under control.  Namely, because it is a calling to be with.  It is a calling to be with people.  Real, actual, breathing people. 

I think for a while I had this vision of the pastoral vocation that had been so grounded in years of pontification, theorizing and musing (seminary years) that I had no idea people had anything to do with it.  People were that forgotten part of the equation amidst the perfectly envisioned ecclesial praxis, doctrinal ordering, Scriptural understanding of church and pastoral life.  I had it all figured out, and then came people.

Once I acknowledge that perhaps people had something to do with it I could only envision people who "got it".  People who understood that I had all the answers, people who understood that everything I had to say was important, and people who were equally interested in the dynamics of church leadership, the shape of Christian community and the doctrinal placement of ecclesiology. 

Ok, Maybe I wasn’t a SEAL

I read an article this week about a pastor who lied about having been a Navy SEAL. In the wake of the Osama Bin Laden event this pastor thought he would ride the tidal wave of goodwill and intrigue that Navy SEALism was receiving in our culture. Apparently, he thought that this would increase his popularity within the congregation and potentially serve as a creative branding niche for his church. Or, perhaps he just had run out of good stories (I already feel I have run out stories and I have only been in ministry 7 years).

I must admit I was truly shocked. Of course, I have heard about pastors taking some unique (to put it as positively as possible) approaches to ministry and leadership. Of course, I have seen pastors make sinful and devestating decisions with their lives. But, I must admit that I have never come across a pastor falsely claiming to be a Navy SEAL.

But, once I got past the initial shock of the story I began to ask myself a few questions. Who do you pretend to be in ministry? And, why? Maybe I am not pretending to be a Navy SEAL, but I am pretending to be emotionally put together. Maybe I am pretending to be brilliant. Maybe I am pretending to be outgoing. That way the people I minister to will...like me, respect me, think I am significant, etc.

So, what is it? Are you pretending to be a Navy SEAL? Or, are you pretending to be something else? And, why?

Good Friday

Our Lord goes to the cross this day.  Thanks and praise be to the Lamb who was slain.

Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry Part III: Teach Us How to Pray

What would youth ministry look like with a robust spiritual theology shaping our teaching, programming and soul care?  I have been exploring this question over the past few weeks in a series of posts.  I am simply offering my humble observations and thoughts from several years in youth ministry on how to intentionally infuse key concepts and values of spiritual formation into ministry with students.  In this post I want to explore yet another key area, prayer.

Two things have struck me since I have been in youth ministry in regards to prayer.  (1) Students don't know how to pray. (2) We haven't taught students how to pray.

Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry Part II: The Holy Spirit is the Agent of Change

As I stated in my first post I hope to explore in this short series what I have discovered these past few years in regards to implementing spiritual formation into youth ministry.  Fundamentally, as I explore this topic I am plunging into what I perceive to be key concepts brought forth by spiritual formation, and in that sense I am asking what it looks like to "do" youth ministry with a thoughtful spiritual theology driving the engine.  

Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry Part I: A Vision for the Long Journey

As much as I feel like an old man when I say it, I have been in youth ministry for 6 years.  I remember my early years of youth ministry navigating what it meant to connect with teens, point them to Jesus and "do" youth ministry.  All of this navigating was done amidst my first few years of an MA program in Spiritual Formation.  At the time, bringing the two worlds together brought a mixture of confusion, frustration and over zealous indoctrination of my students.  Having walked through the many mistakes as well as many successes, I have come to a bit of clarity on what it means to infuse a rich spiritual theology into a youth ministry.  That being said, I have no doubt there is much yet for me to learn.  Over a short series of posts I hope to highlight some of the key discoveries I have made these past 6 years.  Most of these spiritual formation foci are predicated on what I believe to be an often truncated spirituality that is developed within the pantheon of youth ministry philosophy and practice.

So, our first area of formational emphasis is what I will call, A Vision for the Long Journey.  Many of the students I have ministered to seem to have this conception that life doesn't go beyond the few years they are in middle school and/or high school.  Imagining themselves as adults is enough to shutter as it conjures up images of being boring like their dad or weird like their mom.  Life is the now, which in part is a good as students soak up each moment, but it can also be a negative.  Often times students short sighted vision of life fosters a truncated view of the Christian life. 

Formed for the Glory of God:Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards
Wisdom tells us to sit at the feet of our elders rather than the latest ministry fad. And is there a better elder to guide us than Jonathan Edwards?
Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics:A Guide for Evangelicals
Many have come to discover the wealth of spiritual insight available in the Desert Fathers and other traditions. The essays in this volume provide a guide for evangelicals to read the Christian spiritual classics.