A Preacher Looks Back

Article by Marilynne Robinson

(Excerpted from Gilead, a novel by Marilynne Robinson, published this month. © Copyright 2004 Marilynne Robinson. Used with permission of the author and the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux.) As he nears the end of his life, the Reverend John Ames is writing an account of his life and family for his seven-year-old son. Ames, …

All in the Family

Article by Pamela Smith McCall

"What kind of relationship do you want to have with your teen in five years?" Tim Tahtinen, youth leader at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, likes to pose that question to parents and then add, "What’s your plan? I have a plan that works." Instead of segregating youth from their parents in …

Appendix One:Footnote on Tongues  in  Maturing in the Christian Life: A Pastor’s Guide

Book Chapter by Neill Q. Hamilton

This note on tongues implies two useful rules for pastoral leaders. One, parishioners who insist that speaking in tongues is necessary to spiritual maturing should be encouraged to join a Pentecostal church. They disqualify themselves for membership in the mainline denominations. A second rule emerges from Paul’s guidelines for the Corinthian congregation. No meetings should be permitted in which people speak in tongues en masse.

Blaming Women for the Sexually Abusive Male Pastor

Article by Ann-Janine Morey

With the exception of a few recent articles, most of them cited here, studies on clergy sexuality published in sociological, psychological or religious periodicals — as well as fictional treatments — have focused on male clergy adultery without mentioning the consequences suffered by women involved. Not only does the literature say almost nothing about the …

Chapter 12: New Forms of Ministry  in  Ferment in the Ministry

Book Chapter by Seward Hiltner

Beginning with the missionary movement in the early nineteenth century the church began offering ministries to people in special settings or with special problems, including military and hospital chaplains, and service to the disadvantaged in urban, rural, suburban and metropolitan settings. This has involved reconsideration of the appropriateness, education, funding and accountability of these ministries.

Chapter 2: The Ministry of the Ante-Nicene Church (c. 125-325), by George H. Williams  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

There is meager evidence for the end of the New Testament epoch and the beginning of the Patristic period concerning the various leadership positions. There were at least five competing images in which a chief pastor of a Christian church might see himself mirrored (c. 125): as an elder of a Christian sanhedrin, as an apostle, as a prophet, as a high priest, or as an epiphany of God or Christ to the Christian people. The various orders are gradually refined. The Nicene Council delineated an understanding concerning some of the ecclesiastical positions.

Chapter 3: The Ministry in the Later Patristic Period (314-451), by George H. Willliams.  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

In the complete change of religious climate after Constantine most of the new patterns of priestly behavior and pastoral rule which were to prevail for a millennium in both Eastern and Western Catholicism until challenged by Protestantism were laid down in the period between the Council of Arles in 314 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Chapter 4: Maturing in Church and Mission  in  Maturing in the Christian Life: A Pastor’s Guide

Book Chapter by Neill Q. Hamilton

While there may be salvation outside the church, there can be no maturing outside the church.. The church is that place on earth where intimacy with the risen Lord continues in a healing bond that equips us for mission in a new key. Christians are destined to be missionaries. Jesus modeled this missionary, fishing for people, from the beginning. The ultimate agenda item for clergy gathered as body of Christ will be finding how to lead the parishioners as individuals and as a congregation to fulfill their mission in the world.

Chapter 4: The Ministry in the Middle Ages, by Roland H. Bainton  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

Great changes were occasioned by a vast alteration in the social structure as a result of the barbarian inroads. Society was put in disarray. A further and even more serious setback was occasioned by the Mohammedan invasion commencing in the sixth century which made of the Mediterranean an Islamic sea. Against the heretics and the schismatics the Church invoked the Inquisition. Churchmen should inquire and pass sentence. Civil rulers should implement their decisions at the stake. The Inquisition was deemed a department of the cure of souls. Its object was not to burn heretics in the body but to save them by the fear of a brief temporal fire from the unquenchable flames.

Chapter 5: The Ministry in the Time of the Continental Reformation, by Wilhelm Pauck  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

Reformers led to an emphasis upon the proclamation of the Word — preaching. All believers are considered ministers, but for the sake of order, certain ones, the ministers, are set aside for the office of preacher. This view of the rights of the individual implied a rejection of clericalism. At the beginning of the reformation there was no overall plan of organization. It was finally agreed that there was nothing of more prime importance than the Bible. A new social and vocational class, that of the Protestant minister soon developed and the scholar’s gown became the garment of the ministry.

Chapter 6: The Ministry as Shepherding  in  Ferment in the Ministry

Book Chapter by Seward Hiltner

The shepherd or pastor image of the ministry involves the caring, disciplining and nurturing activities that have undergone changes over the last century from that of doorbell-ringing and counseling models to a deeper and more descriptive image that encompasses the skill, accessibility and speed in helping needed in the variety of circumstances encountered by the minister.

Chapter 8: The Rise of the Evangelical Conception of the Ministry in America (1607-1850), by Sidney E. Mead  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

The conception of the ministry, the practice, and why these came about in America during the two hundred and fifty years from the planting of the first permanent English colony in 1607 to the stabilization of the new nation on the verge of the Civil War. Diversity and fragmentation, adaptation, voluntarism, British influence, denominationalism and salary dependence are areas discussed.

Chapter 9: The Ministry as Reconciling  in  Ferment in the Ministry

Book Chapter by Seward Hiltner

Since there is no indigenous image of the ministry as reconciling, and since reconciliation suggests a process rather than a conclusion, contemporary models from group dynamics and marriage counseling are helpful in initiating and managing the process, particularly when reconciliation is not possible if both love and justice are to be served.

Chapter 9: The Protestant Ministry in America: 1850 to the Present, by Robert S. Michaelsen  in  The Ministry in Historical Perspectives

Book Chapter by H. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams (eds.)

The changes in the concept of the ministry has been revolutionary in the past 100 years — industrialization, urbanization, ascension in world power, tremendous growth in population. These factors accentuated the last decades of the 19th Century only to be accelerated in the 20th.

Chapter One: An Integrating Center for the Minister’s Work  in  Maturing in the Christian Life: A Pastor’s Guide

Book Chapter by Neill Q. Hamilton

The pastor’s need for a metaphor for ministry which provides a sense of meaning through all the personal crises of passing decades as well as the continual need to balance the demands of the congregation with maintaining the integrity of the “call” can be met by the New Testament based metaphor for ministry as being a “prophetic guide to maturing in the Christian life.

Company of Friends

Article by Kyle Childress

Ray was tired, worn down to the nub. It was the year he was turning 60, celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination and marking 15 years as pastor of his congregation. Ray knew that every pastor goes through dry periods. What shook his foundations was suddenly coming face-to-face with his mortality, or at least …

Continuing Incarnation: Evelyn Underhill’s Double Thread of Spirituality

Article by Grace Adolphsen Brame

Of all the themes in Evelyn Underhill’s work, none is more important than "continuing incarnation": offering one’s life as the channel for God’s continuing work on earth by weaving together the inner and outer life of the spirit. For Underhill the spiritual life was a life "soaked" by a sense of God’s reality and claim, …

Ferment in the Ministry

Book by Seward Hiltner

(ENTIRE BOOK) As a pioneer in the development in the specialized ministry of pastoral counseling, and a teacher of Protestant ministers in various theological school settings, the author offers his assessment of the state of the ministry in the late 1960’s, a critique of the various forms that ministry has taken, and an description of creative new forms of ministry.

Forward  in  Ferment in the Ministry

Book Chapter by Seward Hiltner

The author’s thesis that while the ministry (circa 1969) was suffering from much criticism and a resulting "failure of nerve," this ferment need not damage the essential soundness of the vocation and its practitione

Has Ministry’s Nerve Been Cut by the Pastoral Counseling Movement?

Article by Gaylord Noyce

An exaggerated deference to the most influential model of personal counseling may be undermining the ministry in hundreds of congregations today. We have taken the immensely helpful, nondirective Rogerian pattern and made it gospel, not only for wide areas of secular counseling but also for pastoral care. Further, we have turned pastoral care into the …

Inadvertent Ministry

Article by Belden C. Lane

Every minister is a Calvinist come Monday morning. Shuddering to think how little of one’s carefully aimed ministry has hit the mark the day before, one feels the truth come thundering home that often the most effective ministry is altogether unplanned, unintentional, even accidental. Were it not for the hope of such inadvertent ministry, many …

Information Technology in Congregations

Article by Nancy S. Armstrong, Aaron Spiegel, & John Wimmer

Has the advent of the Internet and computer led congregations toward the “virtual technology church,” undermining the face-to-face relationships that have long characterized congregational life? Two recent studies, one supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the other by the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, suggest not. The vast majority of congregations using and experimenting with computer …

Leadership as a Spiritual Practice

Article by Anthony B. Robinson

Is leadership specifically pastoral leadership, a spiritual practice? Dorothy Bass has defined practices as "those shared activities that address fundamental human needs and that, woven together, form a way of life." Does leadership address a fundamental human need? Effective leaders engage communities, congregations and institutions in addressing their most difficult and pressing problems, and mobilize …

Leading Congregations, Discovering Congregational Cultures

Article by James P. Wind

To speak of “discovering” congregational culture may sound a bit presumptuous. After all, religious leaders have been confronting distinctive congregational cultures for centuries. Think of how immigrant congregations fought over changing the liturgy to English, or of the battles that took place when Irish clergy were sent to serve Polish parishes. And we are familiar …

Learning from Lyle Schaller: Social Aspects of Congregatioins

Article by Daniel V.A. Olson

A survey that William McKinney and I recently conducted invited 1,500 conservative and mainline Protestant denominational leaders to choose from a list of 63 contemporary religious leaders and authors the ten who have had “the greatest impact on your thinking about the church’s life and mission today.” Among the choices were Peter Berger, William Sloane …

Ministry as More Than a Helping Profession

Article by Stanley Hauerwas and W. Willimon

Parish clergy and seminarians today seem content to have ministry numbered among the “helping professions. ” After all, most professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists. They think the church is sustained by the services it provides or the amount of fellowship and good feeling in the congregation. This form of …

Pastors on Purpose

Article by David Wood

Book Review: Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading. By Ronald A. Heiftze and Marty Linsky. Harvard Business School, 252 pp. Recently I went through the experience of interviewing for a pastoral position. In my round of encounters with search committees, I was questioned about my vision of leadership and how …

Pop Pulpits

Article by Jason Byassee

Book Review The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust. By Mark Pinsky. Westminster John Knox, 280 pp., paperback. What Would Buffy Do? The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide. By Jana Riess. Jossey-Bass, 208 pp., paperback.   I know what it’s like to be a preacher desperate for some point of contact with …

Power Outage

Article by Anthony B. Robinson

What happens when power is seen as inherently suspect and even evil? What happens when power in the church is viewed as bad? What are the implications for the church when its leaders eschew power and influence and consider them qualities or capacities to be avoided? This past summer I taught a course at a …

Pulpit Supply

Article by Patricia M.Y. Chang

When denominational officials look at the number of empty pulpits in their churches, they worry about a shortage of pastors. Some have strategized about new ways to recruit candidates for ministry. "The clergy shortage is impacting me at every turn," says Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese in Kentucky. "The bishops and seminaries woke …

Remember Mama: Thoughts on Motherhood and Ministry

Article by William Willimon

Just when it seemed that we had finally buried the image of the overbearing, overprotective, zealous “Jewish mother,” a psychologist has come along seeking to resurrect the deposed matriarch. In a recent book which he wrote with Herbert Yahraes, A Child’s Journey: Forces That Shape the Lives of Our Young (McGraw-Hill, 1978), Julius Segal, a …


Article by Daniel Novotny

Dear Jonathan: I appreciate your letter about experiences in your first parish, and I want to respond to your remarks about the tension between feeling “at home” and “not at home.” Feeling at home helps us penetrate the thoughts and feelings of our parishioners, so as to help them make sense of life. But identifying …

Secret Gift of Ministry

Article by Richard Lischer

According to new findings in the Pulpit & Pew National Clergy Survey, a solid majority of clergy is deeply satisfied with the pastoral ministry. Seven out of ten of those surveyed report they have never considered abandoning their vocation. In other words, most pastors claim to have found happiness in the ministry. Why is this …

Six Economic Myths Heard from the Pulpit

Article by Robin Klay and C. Gryzen

Economists and clergy have often been at loggerheads. In the early 19th century, economists were accused of practicing the “dismal science,” a reputation which flowed from Thomas Malthus’s deeply pessimistic predictions. He warned that world population pressures would inevitably perpetuate grinding poverty. Today, in contrast, morally sensitive people accuse economists of being too optimistic about …

Something New Under the Sun: Computer Concordances and Biblical Study

Article by Ralph W. Klein

Most pastors and other students of the Bible are aware that the revolution created by the personal computer has spawned a new set of tools for exploring the Bible. But if you’re wary of computers, or are uncertain whether—or which—computer programs are worth the investment, the world of Bible software may be a dark and …

Stick with the Story

Article by Richard Lischer

Every day, Christians are sorting through their five options and claiming an identity as followers of Jesus Christ. On Sunday the preacher helps them in this task by means of a poetic activity. The preacher makes (poiein) words, approximately 1,500 of them on a Sunday morning, 3 million in a career, and over the long …

Stressed Out

Article by John Dart

The most common reason Protestant pastors leave parish ministry is an experience of stressful conflict, usually arising from differences with laity or staff but sometimes with denominational officials. Compounding these stresses, ex-pastors say, is a lack of support from church officials and fellow clergy. Former pastors said they are in a Catch-22 situation when thinking …

The “Highest Standards” of Clergy Morality

Article by David K. Jaeger

The ancient Hebrews thought of emotions as being generated in the liver. Western tradition has generally represented love as coming from the heart. United Methodism, perhaps unwittingly, has recently added to our corporeal mythology by rendering its judgment that fidelity is located in the genitals. Ever since the 1980 General Conference declined to take a …

The Disappearance of Theology from the Oldline Churches

Article by John B. Cobb, Jr.

The title assumes a particular meaning of “theology,” but not one that requires a narrow and precise definition. What has disappeared is the serious activity of faith seeking understanding or self-consciously Christian reflection on important issues. “Disappearance” also requires explanation. It cannot mean that no members of these churches engage in theology. I, for one, …

The Human Web: Reflections on the State of Pastoral Theology

Article by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

After completing graduate work in religion and psychology, I found myself teaching pastoral care at a seminary. In making that transition I experienced two surprises. The first was the jolt of moving from the academic study of religion and social science to the peculiar discipline of pastoral theology. Although I had had clinical training and …

Tying Knots

Article by Lawrence Wood

The bride wore a white dress with pearls, a veil and a big red nose. The groom had a rainbow wig, and instead of patent leather shoes, floppy brogues as big as boats which were coming apart at the toes. All around them a raucous band of clowns held forth on tubas and big bass …

Vicious Cycles

Article by Anthony B. Robinson

As I travel around the country visiting and consulting with congregations and clergy, I find that many are caught in vicious cycles. The vicious cycles seem more common than the virtuous ones. They are easily recognized by a chilly climate of anxiety, which these days seems to be more common than the common cold. Such …

Where Are We Going in Pastoral Care?

Article by Leroy T. Howe

For all practical purposes, my transition to becoming a theologian of pastoral care began with an invitation to attend the International Congress on Pastoral Care and Counseling, held in Scotland in mid-August 1979. The Congress was an extraordinarily representative gathering, bringing together more than 400 practitioners and theoreticians in the pastoral care and counseling field …

Young, Male and Married

Article by John Dart

Churches seeking a new pastor tend to want a man under 40, preferably married to a nonworking woman who volunteers on church committees. It’s a caricature, but only slightly so, says sociologist Adair Lummis, who is describing not congregations from the 1950s, but those today. This preference exists "even in those denominations which have ordained …