Tag Archives | pastoring

Calling and Character | William H. Willimon

The cover of Willimon's Calling and CharacterWe clergy ought not to flatter ourselves, as if our clerical vocation somehow placed a greater burden upon our backs than the challenge that taking up the cross and following Jesus holds for any disciple. (9)

These words, from the first paragraph of the introduction, indicate the unconventional wisdom of William H. Willimon. He turns many of the common perspectives about the life of the pastor on their head. For another example, consider his thoughts on burnout:

The great ethical danger for clergy is not that we might “burn out,” to use a metaphor that is popular in our time, not that we might lose the energy required to do ministry. Our danger is that we might “black out,” that is lose consciousness of why we are here and who we are called to be for Christ and his church. (21)

In every page of Calling and Character, Willimon reminds clergy of “why we are here and who we are called to be” (21). The call to ministry is a high calling. Rather than waste time lamenting the “pedestal” we’re sometimes placed upon, clergy should buck up and wear the mantle. To nuance that metaphor, it is incumbent upon clergy to develop a virtuous character so the mantle actually fits.

Richard B. Hays used three biblical images to frame his ethics: community, cross, and new creation. Willimon uses this threefold framework to develop his ministerial ethics. Clergy are those people “who embody Christian community, cross, and new creation in their lives” (59).

You may agree wholeheartedly with everything Willimon has to say—or not. Regardless of your position on the various issues, Willimon will challenge you to examine your life and practice in light of a high clerical vision.

Willimon, William H. Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000.


Pastors and Theology | Owen Strachan

Owen StrachanThe pastor who leads well owes less to “best practices” or strategic vision and more to biblical theology and the way of the cross.

—Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public
Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision 
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015), 54.

Life Is Mostly Edges | Calvin Miller

I judged this book by its cover and it paid off. Before picking up this memoir all I had was a recommendation from a colleague and the beautiful cover to go by. I knew that Miller had written a famous Christian fantasy trilogy, but I have never got around to reading it.

Miller hooked me from the first page. This is the sort of prose you’ll encounter:

Memory arrives sometime after we get here, and generally abandons us long before we leave here. So the umbilical trot that squirts us into the world is unremembered, and the EKG we need to keep it all going is likely to abandon us too suddenly to allow us to write it all down before our passing. (xiii)

Miller wrote his life story with the pen of a poet through the eyes of a story-teller. He discovers meaning in each chapter of his life.

I do wish he spent less time writing about his childhood and more about his life as a pastor, but that’s a selfish wish. In the end, each chapter is well worth reading and reflecting upon.

The final chapter is particularly fruitful for reflection. He asked himself what he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. His conclusions near the end of his life have certainly given me cause to think during the middle of mine.

They Smell Like Sheep | Lynn Anderson

I’ve unintentionally (and unfortunately) discovered the single greatest reason to shop in a physical bookstore rather than online. You can quickly see whether or not a book has pulled-out and enlarged quotes in the sidebar—and avoid wasting your time.

I bought this book for a couple reasons:

  1. Some blog I read recommended it—if only I could remember which blog that was . . .
  2. I’m a new pastor and thought it would be good to supplement my understanding of pastoral theology.

The main idea of the book is theologically sound and quite compelling: pastors need to stop acting like CEOs and recover a biblical model of shepherding. That’s where the goodness ended. I gave the first chapter the benefit of the doubt, but I quickly laid down my underlining pencil when I realized that there wasn’t any meat here for me.

If you want a better grasp of pastoral theology, read any (or all) of Eugene Peterson’s books on the topic instead:

  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity
  • Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness
  • Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work
  • The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

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