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Please Write This Book: Seminarians in the Salt Mines

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Why I left seminary and why I came back12022013-tumblr_mwvjf1w1eh1sj66fco1_1280

Short Answer: Seminary trains people to be pastors (no surprise to anyone but me) and while I was interested in God and theology and life’s big questions, I had no intention of being a pastor. My calling was in the world of work and getting stuff done (after a fashion: I still prefer thinking about doing to actual doing). But life’s big questions kept popping up.

Long Answer: one may run but one cannot forever hide from one’s life purpose. For me the big questions reasserted in the regular world most of us live in (versus a churchy, holy world where magical thinking sometimes takes precedent).

One of the big questions had to do with what encouragement looks like when stripped of official roles and titles and authority. To encourage—especially to encourage others to seek after God—floats as calling alongside any and all professions, roles, work and lifestyles. Which is why I finished the theology degree: because I want to encourage people in my profession (communicators, copywriters, art directors, marketers) and concomitant professions (all the folks I interact with every week: engineering, leadership, professors, photographers, pastors, scientists, all manner of physician, nurses, entrepreneurs, students, writers, editors, publishers…it’s a long list for any of us).

There’s a new emphasis out these days among pastors and theological educators. Well, not so much new as renewed: pastors have suddenly realized the world of work has not/does not/will not respond to churchy topics. Tim Keller’s work is pointing people that way and new organizations are springing up all the time, like the Bethel Work with Purpose initiative and Tom Nelson’s Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. I’ve written optimistically and pessimistically about the attempts because I wonder at the intentions behind them:

  1. Are theological leaders focused on the workplace to enlarge their borders and so pull more people into the orbit of their particular organization?
    • Is the workplace viewed as a missional last-frontier where all should be trained to verbalize dogmatic jiu jitsu?
  2. Or is the emphasis truly on encouraging regular folks (like me) to understand how God works in and through our work—and setting us free to go & do guilt-free?
    • Can insular institutions release people to sort out what’s redemptive about their work—even if their ultimate answer has little to do with growing their local institution?

Perhaps I’m asking for too much nuance: is this an institution that focuses in or out? And if it focuses out, what does that mean for sending people and what does it mean for those authorities whose income depends on tethering people to the institutional focus?

Seminarians in the Salt Mines

Please write “Seminarians in the Salt Mines.”

  • Start by showing how the God of the Bible was a God who attended to physical work and how work is no less a ministry than caring for souls.
  • Help seminarians understand that calling is as much about dealing with the issues of work as it is people’s souls and in fact, people’s souls are laid bare in and through their toil. Or at least it can be that way.
  • Have a chapter or section about the horizons of work: how looking out at a lifetime of work forms one’s perspective about what is important and how to spend time.
  • Include stories of people who have preached the gospel with the work of their hands, people like Wendell Berry and Frank Laubach. Every chapter could have a story that showed a Wendell Berry-like faithfulness to a community and to substantive faith-giving practices in the world.
  • Include stories from people actively pulling faith into their work: not the superstars seeking national attention—just the folks right around you.

I’d read that book. I’d buy that book.


Image credit: National Archives of Scotland via Salvage

Written by kirkistan

December 2, 2013 at 5:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. K,

    You are obviously exceedingly qualified, gifted, seasoned and prepared better than anyone I know to write this book. It ought be required reading for all first year seminarians. The Title works & the chapter foci you referenced all work together cohesively.

    So I implore the implorer to write this book themselves! I would buy / read and promote this book!



    December 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    • Phil–thanks! I appreciate that. And thanks for reading.


      December 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm

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