Shepherd’s Care: A Vocational Perspective

I’ve decided to make the next theme what we might call “Practical Formation”—a comparatively loose arrangement of postings, all of which have a bent toward helping shape our ministries in a down-to-earth way.  I want to begin with what I’m calling “a vocational perspective.”

One of the best things we can do is drop the idea of “professional” from our defining view of ministry.  I trust I can say that and get away with it, given I’ve devoted over 30 years of my life to the professional training of men and women for ministry in seminary.

But even if I can, calling for a letting go of “professional” needs some explanation.  The abandonment is not that of quality or devotion or excellence.  It is releasing ourselves from a “career mentality.”

Some of this, I think, stems from our need to have ministry viewed by society as a legitimate enterprise—a “professional-level” job, if you will.  We like to move around town at a level on par with other respected and influential persons.

At one level, there’s nothing wrong with that.  The problem comes when we begin to orient ourselves in relation to a “professional” mentality—a view which expects an upward mobility in almost every aspect of life and work.  Once we have fallen for that trap, it’s almost automatic that we will think in terms of our present situation (to say nothing of the future) as having to be “more”—“better”—and “bigger” than it currently is.  That’s how a professional culture measures success.

But we are called. 

Actually, I believe every human being should live vocationally, but if we believe that clergy are supposed to be representatives of the Kingdom in the midst of the world, then we (of all people) must take seriously what it means to live and work from a vocational perspective.

We’ll explore some of the things this will mean in the coming weeks.

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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One Response to Shepherd’s Care: A Vocational Perspective

  1. Jim Bradshaw says:

    Looking forward to this… it is going to be good… and it is necessary.

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