Category: Vocation

differenceOne of my dreams is to meet the person responsible for introducing the charge to young adults to “go out there and make a difference.” Youth and young adults are pressured and challenged to go “make a difference” but making a difference has never been clearly defined or quantified anywhere. For a few years now I have refused to tell my students to “go change the world” or “go make a difference.” Do those phrases really mean anything?

In light of this, I was naturally confused by Neal Samudre’s article over at Relevant Magazine titled “6 Things Holding You Back From Making a Difference.” The six things include comfort, entitlement, apathy, money, time, and yourself. That is, we are often too comfortable with our current circumstances. We often feel like we deserve to have whatever we desire. We lose interest in the things that matter outside of ourselves. We often reduce life to making money. We waste a lot of time. And, finally, we talk ourselves out of getting personally involved in important issues.

Ok, great. I get that. In fact, these are all part of the human condition that keeps us from doing all the regular things Jesus commands, like loving God and loving neighbor. My suspicion, however, is that the main “thing” holding young people back from “making a difference” is that they are being sent out on a mission that has no real meaning or a mission that is solely defined by one’s individual, and likely narcissistic, interpretation.

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Finding the right pastor or priest for a congregation can be a trying ordeal. It is stressful for the candidates, stressful for committees, stressful for elders and bishops (where applicable).

In some cases, qualified ministers have no church, and churches have no permanent minister. What accounts for the disconnect between what sort of candidates are vying for churches and the sort for which churches are actually looking? In economic terms, why is there seemingly a dissonance between supply (ministers) and demand (congregations)?

In order to get a better look at the problem, I have designed a brief survey (1-2 minutes, just 10 questions), asking the question, “What do you look for in a pastor/priest?”

If you are interested in discovering trends that might give a better picture of the source of the problem, please consider taking this survey and passing it on to friends and fellow church members.

I’ll keep the survey open for a month and post the results after that, as well as further follow up surveys if necessary.

You can access the survey here. Thank you!

WIPFSTOCK_TemplateToday at Ethika Politika, John Medendorp, former editor of Calvin Seminary’s Stromata, reviews Jordan Ballor’s Get Your Hands Dirty for my channel Via Vitae. He writes,

Although Ballor’s book is very accessible, the reading is by no means “light.” I would call it “engaging heavy reading.” While the concepts are clear and the analogies riveting, Ballor has a way of putting so much into a sentence that it can take some time to work through his ideas. I found myself time and time again putting the book down for a few minutes to digest a thought, or re-reading a paragraph to make sure I followed the contours of his thought. There is a lot here, and it is thought provoking. Whether one agrees with all of Ballor’s ideas or not, he offers clarifying insights into many aspects of Christian social thought and action. Even where I disagreed with Ballor, I found his writing helpful for articulating my own positions.

A few basic assumptions underlie Ballor’s work, assumptions that would not surprise anyone familiar with Christian tradition. Central to Ballor’s thesis is the fact that human beings are created in the imago dei, the image of God. Like God, we are naturally oriented to love. Like God, we are naturally creative and industrious. Like God, we are naturally inclined to give of ourselves for the sake of others. Of course, because of the fall of humanity into sin, these naturally inclinations and orientations have been corrupted and twisted by evil. Nevertheless, there remains a natural order of things, inherent in creation and revealed in Scripture, towards which we as responsible human persons ought to strive: love for our neighbor, care for creation, industry, community, procreation, responsible use of resources (in all senses), and mutual recognition and respect of one another’s humanity.

One particularly poignant theme that Ballor strikes home again and again in the book is the nature of human beings as social persons in community, and the corresponding responsibility that we have to that community, which always was, but increasingly (and obviously) is global.

Read more . . . .

Blog author: jcarter
posted by on Monday, October 21, 2013

3997077930_679738c745Forget Max Weber and his Protestant work ethic, says Greg Forster. We don’t need social science to know that God cares about our work:

Nothing shows the difficulty of understanding the relationship between work and faith more than our continued insistence on framing this issue as a debate over Max Weber’s long-discredited theory of the Protestant work ethic. Weber argued that Protestants value work because they think prosperity is proof that you’re saved; as anyone who knows anything about church history can tell you, this was and is slanderous nonsense. He also argued that teaching people that God values their work created an economic system that thrives on greed and materialism; as anyone who knows economic history can tell you, this is just as preposterous. Weber’s theory has been almost universally dismissed by a century of theologians, historians, and economists.

Nonetheless, Weber’s terms and categories continue to dominate popular discussions, because his approach strictly separates “facts” from “values.” This allows secularists to think about possible cultural connections between faith and work while preserving a comfortable work/spirit dualism in their own lives. That dualism is exactly what the faith and work movement seeks to challenge. As long as Weber dominates the conversation it’s difficult to get people to understand the message.

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apple harvestIt is time to pick the apples. Row after row of trees, marked Gala and Honeycrisp and Red Delicious: an abundance of fruit that must be harvested in a relatively short time. And there is more to it than just yanking a piece of fruit off a branch:

[T]he job is more difficult than you may think, so WZZM 13 sent reporter Stacia Kalinoski out into [orchard owner] May’s orchard to show what the work is really life…

Stacia Kalinoski did just that and found out picking apples really is, as May says, “an art form.”

The trick to picking the fruit without the stem or the spurs of the tree is to twist.

“When you yank that apple you will get finger bruises on that apple,” he said.

But the twist takes practice and is what slows new workers down. Stacia also learned you’ll also bruise the apple and others just by lightly tossing it in the bag.

“Lay that apple in that bag,” explained May. “You’re handling eggs right now.”

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Blog author: dpahman
posted by on Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A recent story from Catholic News Service highlights an interesting encounter between markets and monasticism, a subject that I have commented on before, this time centered around the Monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia:

The monks in Norcia initially were known for their liturgical ministry, particularly sharing their chanted prayers in Latin online – http://osbnorcia.org/blog – with people around the world.

But following the Rule of St. Benedict means both prayer and manual labor, with a strong emphasis on the monks earning their own keep.

After just a year of brewing and selling their beer in the monastery gift shop and through restaurants in Norcia, financial self-sufficiency seems within reach, and the monks are talking expansion.

“We didn’t expect it to be so enormously successful,” said Fr. Cassian Folsom, the U.S. Benedictine who founded the community in 1998 and serves as its prior. “There’s been a huge response, and our production can’t keep up with the demand and the demand continues to grow.”

Beer brewing has been a traditional ministry of the Church for ages, going back to a time when water was unsafe to drink without first boiling it. The brewing process, as well as the alcohol, happens to purify the water from any harmful bacteria. This led St. Arnold of Metz (d. 640) to proclaim, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world!” I’ll drink to that.

While prayer and liturgy still come first at St. Benedict’s, the brothers have also found that the division labor — once referred to as “economic cooperation” — can also be a spiritual good:

Fr. Basil Nixen, the novice [brew]master, said the beer enterprise has raised the morale of the monks and reinforces their sense of community because all the monks are called on to help with some aspect of producing, bottling, distributing and selling the beer.

In addition to financial sustainability and koinonia, the brewing also has the goal of introducing more people to the life of faith:

“Here in Norcia, we’re at a very important place for evangelization” because so many tourists and pilgrims come through the town, he said. “We’re continually sharing with others our life, above all the liturgy.

“People come to the monastery for the beer,” he said, but they leave realizing God brought them to Norcia to meet him.

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rileycooper1Sometimes we are not aware of the foolishness of our private speech until our words go public. This is one of the morals of the story of Philadelphia Eagle’s receiver Riley Cooper’s n-word slip. In a video taken at a Kenny Chesney concert in June, Cooper became frustrated that an African-American security guard would not allow him backstage. With a beer in his hand Cooper responded, “I will jump this fence and fight every n***ger here, bro.” Cooper’s gaffe serves as a wake-up call for all of us, now that the dust seems to have settled from the controversy, because Cooper almost lost his job because his private speech went public.

In an apologetic press conference, Cooper repeatedly expressed regret over his response to the security guard by saying that he was “ashamed and disgusted.” Cooper continued, “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person I am. I’m extremely sorry.” It may be too late to avoid negative perceptions in the eyes of many because of the way he said it. It was his gut response after being challenged by an African-American in authority. It was not forced nor thoughtfully contemplated. Cooper’s response was visceral, natural, and raw.

“I don’t use that term. I was raised better than that. I have a great mom and dad and they’re disgusted with my actions,” Cooper said with a self-loathing gaze. But for those of us in the African-American community, though Cooper may not realize it, it will be hard for many of us to believe him. Generally speaking, words that you do not have in your lexicon are not usually spoken when frustrated. In fact, when a person is angry, especially when alcohol lessens inhibitions, we often see a person’s true self. We see their heart.

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One of the unintended consequences of the church growth movement was the narrowing of an understanding of how Christianity contributes to the common good by reducing what Christians contribute to the local church. While the church remains vital for the moral formation of society, there are other aspects of human flourishing that require the development of other institutions as Andy Crouch recently explained at Christianity Today.

This reduction has been adopted in some platforms that currently promote church planting. This church planting emphasis, in some cases, has led to an atrophied historical understanding of the Christian tradition’s emphasis on seeking the peace of the city through multiple institutions like schools, hospitals, professional societies, etc. While many churches are being planted in America’s most “strategic” cities, there seems to be little interest in coupling church planting with the creating of Christian schools to provide alternative education opportunities for children trapped in substandard public schools.

Let’s take New York City as an example:

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Domenichino Adam and Eve(1623-25)Courtesy of Web Art GalleryThere are two prominent schools of thought within conservative Protestant circles that continue to clash over what Christianity is about because their starting points comprise different biblical theological visions. I use the word “prominent” here because I fully recognize that there are other more nuanced voices in the Christian diaspora. No “binaries” or “false dichotomies” are intended here. This is simply a distinction between the two dominant voices in a choir of others.

One begins by constructing an understanding of the Christian life orientated around Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and the other begins with Genesis chapter 3. A Gen 1 and 2 starting point views the gospel as a means for human beings to have a realized experience of what their humanity was meant to be and to do, whereas a Gen. 3 orientation sees the gospel as a means of saving us from our humanity in preparation for the eschaton (heaven).

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This case has been made that government attempts to manage economies through regulation, laws, and taxes discourage entrepreneurs entering into the marketplace. I recently asked Michael, a young entrepreneur in his 20s, what were some of his fears about being a entrepreneur in America. We’re not using his full name to protect his identity but this is what he had to say:

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