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Maturing in the Christian Life: A Pastorís Guide by Neill Q. Hamilton


Neill Q. Hamilton graduated from Duke University, Princeton Theological Seminary and the University of Basel, Switzerland (D. Th.) He was Robert S. Dollar Professor of New Testament, San Francisco Theological Seminary and Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley and later was Professor of New Testament at the School of Theology and Graduate School, Drew University, Madison, New Jersey. This book was published in 1984 by The North Creek Press, copyright Neil Hamilton, used by permission of the author. Prepared for Religion Online by Herbert F. Lowe.


Appendix Two: Faith History Interview


Orientation Comments

In its own way an interview on faith history is something like the history a family physician takes of a new patient. Knowing a patient's medical history makes it possible for the physician to plan for the continuing good health of the patient, to fend off predictable episodes of illness and to care more effectively when illness does come. Perhaps the major difference between a medical history and a faith history is that a faith history is oriented more to the healthy times than to the times of crisis. Indeed, most people find that talking about their pilgrimages and their beliefs as Christians is itself a means of grace that enhances :and strengthens the faith they already have. I hope that will be true for you.

Besides enhancing your faith and giving me a chance to know you better, this interview has another purpose. In my continuing education for the ministry I need to gain skill and experience in understanding faith journeys. With your permission I may be reporting this interview to a -group of clergy as part of our training. In this report I will not identify who you are. I will never divulge to anyone what we talk about together, for it will be a privileged communication between minister and parishioner. If at any time during our conversation you decide you would not like to continue or would not like me to report our conversation, we will stop. (Only use this paragraph if it applies.)

I ask your permission to record our conversation on tape. This will help me in making my notes. I will not duplicate the tape, nor play it for anyone else. When I have finished making my notes I will erase the tape.

Factual Data

Date and place of birth? Numbers and ages of brothers and sisters? Occupation of providing parent or parents? Ethnic and racial identification? Church affiliation? Own occupation? Marital status? Own family-their sexes and ages? Occupation of spouse?

Part I. Formative Figures

1. Were your parents religious? In what ways did they influence your faith formation as you were growing up?

2. Were there other adults who had an important influence on your religious nurture? Who were they and what influence did they have?

3. In your adult years what ministers, friends, teachers, or authors have had a special hand in shaping the faith you now hold? What were their contributions, both positive and negative?

4. Follow up on the influential figures to find out if they ever shared their own faith experiences. Did they pray, read Scripture, attend church, engage in ministry inside the institution or in mission outside the church in everyday life? Did their ministry inside or outside the church include evangelism, relief of people's needs, action or involvement for greater justice? In what ways?

A major function of Part I is to discover to what extent formative figures belong to evangelical or social action party types. Second, what marks did they show of the various phases of the Christian life?

Part II. Personal journey

1. Was there a time when you consciously decided to become a Christian? What were the circumstances? Did any particular experiences of God lead up to or accompany this?

2. Have you ever had what might be called a conversion experience? If so, tell me about it.

3. Have you had or do you now have a continuing sense of the presence of God or of God's hand in your life?

4. What has been the best experience of God's activity in your life?

5. Was there ever a time when you felt let down by God?

6. Does God have a regular place in your everyday life? At home? At work or school?

7. When you come to look back on your life at its end in what ways do you hope most that it was an expression of faith?

8. In what way do you wish God would help you most in your life right now?

Part III. Particulars of Faith

1. Do you remember God having a hand in your choice of spouse?

2. If you are a parent, how do you' hope to influence your family as a person of faith?

3. Do you remember God having a hand in your choice of occupation? In your occupation how do you hope that your faith makes a difference?

4. How does Jesus Christ help you in your relationship to God?

5. What would you choose as the most appropriate title or titles for Jesus-good man, prophet, teacher, Son of God, savior, Lord, Son of man? Why-what does it (they) mean to you?

6. Have you ever had any particular experiences of the Holy Spirit?

7. What do you think God most wants to accomplish in the world?

8. What has been your worst experience of the church?

9. What should the church be doing?

10. What has been your best experience of the church?

11. When you worship, what do you hope will happen?

12. What do you expect most from clergy?

13. Do you find the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper particularly helpful?

14. What part does prayer play in your life? How often? When? What do you pray about? What happens as a result of your prayers?

15. Have you ever been part of a prayer group? What did it do?

16. How does serious illness or tragedy affect your relationship with God?

17. What does the Bible mean to you? What use do you make of it?

18. Are there any summaries or confessions of faith that especially express what you believe?

19. Would people who do not believe in Christ be better off if they did? Would you support efforts to help bring people to faith in Christ? Do you do anything yourself in regard to this?

20. Is racial injustice a faith issue for you? How do you express your concern?

21. How do you account for poverty from a religious point of view?

23. Do you think there are times when it is justified to disobey the law for religious reasons? Have you ever put yourself in such circumstances?

24. How do you think God feels about our nation

25. What do you expect to happen to you when you come to die? Do you think faith will make a difference then?

26. How do you think you are doing as a Christian?

27. Do you have what used to be called a "besetting sin," some particular failing that keeps recurring? Do you find help from God to stay on top of it most of the time or does it win most of the time? [Do not ask to identify the failing. Leave it up to the parishioner to say or not.]

28. As you think back over your answers, are there any you are uneasy about? Would you like to add anything?

Thank you so much for your time and your candor. I cannot tell you how much it means for me to have the privilege of getting to know you in this way.

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