Well, a new year is underway, although many of us may not feel very new as we are still thawing out from the Polar Vortex of 2014 or panting for fresh water in West Virginia. Yet, the new year is in full swing, as evidenced by all of the schools starting back over the course of the next week or so. My university technically started last night, although today marks the official beginning of a new year. With anything new, there is a sense of anticipation. What challenges lie ahead? What surprises lie in wait? Time marches on, therefore we live in the present and look to the future.
As a university professor, a new semester means new classes and new students. Last semester is over and in the books. Nothing can be changed or undone. It is, as we say, history. We have now only opportunity before us. Opportunity to do something different, do something new, do something exciting. One of the courses that I teach each spring is the Introduction to Ministry course for our underclassmen ministry majors. And, as I have in past semesters, I have again assigned David Hansen’s wonderful book The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers as the primary textbook.
I was first introduced to this book when I was a freshman in college. It has been an assigned text in several ministry courses that I have taken. It is one of those books that I read every couple of years whether I am using it or not. It is not a terribly academic work, in terms of lengthy footnotes and excessive bullet-pointed lists. Yet it is a deeply profound book for at least one reason—Hansen claims to be nothing more than a minister. He has made mistakes, which he discusses candidly in the book, and he has had some successes. He has questioned his call at times, while also experiencing the rich joy of serving as God’s hands and feet. Yet, in all that he has experienced, he is simply a minister.
I resonate with Hansen. . .a lot. We both entered ministry hoping to become one of the guys that everyone looks to and idolizes. We wanted the baptism notches on our belts and to be invited to all the big conferences as a keynote speaker. Yet, although that has happened to some extent for Hansen, it has not been the norm for either of us. For all of our hard work, all we can basically say is that, well, we’re ministers. No accolades, no endorsement deals, no front-page spreads or interviews. Just being a minister.
And you know what, thanks to my friend David Hansen and his book, I think I am starting to finally be okay with that. And I think God is okay with that as well.