Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

On Being a Pastor-Writer

The short piece below was written for publication in this year's spring edition of my denomination's conference newsletter, Green Shoots. I was asked to describe what it's like to be a pastor-writer. It speaks to the reasons behind my writing, including the pieces I post on this blog.

(Painting: "Portrait of Christopher Potter," clergyman/scholar, 1636)

On Being a Pastor-Writer

Writing has always come easily to me; pastoring was more of a process. I’ve been writing stories and poems since I first learned how to string words into sentences on a piece of paper. Preaching and counseling and church administration, however, are not things I thought I would be doing with my life. And yet here I am: right now, I have six novels in print (some of which are even passably readable) and six years of pastoring under my belt. Of the two endeavors, the latter is definitely the most important—I have found my vocation in the teaching ministry of the Body of Christ. Writing has always been recreational for me, but in the original sense of the term: it is one of the ways in which I experience and participate in the “re-creation” that God is performing in my life. 

But, as I think about it, I’m not sure that I can separate the two activities of being a writer and being a pastor quite so cleanly. The pastorate is a vocation and not just a job, so “being a pastor” touches every part of my life, including my writing. The writing I’ve done, though often undertaken simply in the sheer joy of creating something winsome and lovely, has a pastoral element to it. I write pieces that will, I hope, prove helpful to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I seek to magnify the great story of the Incarnation by incarnating a bit of truth and joy into the substance of a printed page. 

There are challenges to being a pastor-writer, of course: I don’t have as much time for writing as I used to, and many of the dear folks in my church seem to feel they’re under an obligation to try to like everything I write. But, on the whole, I’m enchanted with the way that God is weaving together my vocation with my recreation—to proclaim the greatest story of all, week in and week out, and to write down words in the in-between times that might, God willing, help my flock to re-imagine that story in a new and compelling way.

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