How do you choose the books you read?
Perhaps you go by author, you have been challenged by or appreciated previous writings. Maybe a friend or colleague has recommended a particular writer. Maybe it is the theme of the book. The writer is addressing a subject that you are interested in, or want to learn more about. Some may be attracted by the cover design which piques an interest and leads them to want to find out more.
With the book I have been reading recently, it was neither the theme, nor the writer; it was the strapline. A few words on the front cover grabbed my attention and spoke to the emptiness within. The writer is David Hansen, the book ‘The Art of Pastoring’, the strapline ‘Ministry without all the answers’.
When the first lockdown was announced, I felt utterly bereft. All of my activity, all my doing for God ground to a halt. I can remember sitting in my study and praying “what do I do now?”. Having had quite a long ministry in my present Church, my role had markers throughout the week; tasks that needed to be accomplished on certain days. I was living, to use David Hansen’s phrase, a “task driven ministry”. With no tasks, my ministry was suddenly cut adrift and I did not know where I would float too.
Through reading David Hansen’s book, I actually believe I began to re-sense what my original calling was about. Like many, I had become so busy “doing” for Jesus, I had lost sight of what ministry can truly be. I felt really challenged as Hansen describes ministers and ministry as being a parable of Jesus.
If my life was a parable, what was the message it was communicating?
A parable draws a comparison between something that is known and something that is un-known. Jesus sometimes began his parables with the words “the kingdom of Heaven is like…” Hansen says:
Here’s what the pastoral ministry is for me: Every day as I go about my tasks as a pastor, I am a follower of Jesus. I am therefore a parable of him to those I encounter. The parable of Jesus works the power and presence of Jesus in their lives.
As we begin to emerge from this time of pandemic, many ministers and churches will, no doubt, want to make up for lost time and get busy again. In the midst of my busy-ness, I am planning to take with me a question;
If my life is a parable, what message am I communicating?
If you would like to borrow the question, you are welcome!