We are counting down the Top 40 articles from the 36-year history of Leadership Journal, including this article from 2014, which helped spark a renewed focus on vocation (the way God calls every believer to serve the kingdom of God, whether through church ministry or any other kind of work).
Confession is good for the soul, but it's hard for pastors. At least it was for me. Years ago I stood before my congregation to make a heartfelt confession. It was indeed difficult to do, yet it would prove transformative for our entire faith community.
More than a decade has passed since that day, but I still remember it clearly. Against a backdrop of pindrop silence, I asked the congregation I served to forgive me. Not for sexual impropriety or financial misconduct, but for pastoral malpractice. I confessed I had spent the minority of my time equipping them for what they were called to do for the majority of their week.
I didn't mean to engage in pastoral malpractice; my pastoral paradigm had been theologically deficient. As a result I had been perpetuating a Sunday-to-Monday gap in my preaching, discipleship, and pastoral care. I blurted out what my heart had been holding back for way too long.
With a lump in my throat, I feebly grasped for the right words. I wanted to confess that because of my stunted theology, individual parishioners in my congregation were hindered in their spiritual formation, and ill-equipped in their God-given vocations. Our collective mission had suffered as well. I had failed to see, from Genesis to Revelation, the high importance of vocation and the vital connections between faith, work, and economics. Somehow I had missed how the gospel speaks into every nook and cranny of life, connecting Sunday worship with Monday work in a seamless fabric of Holy Spirit-empowered faithfulness.
Journey to Wholeness
What led to this realization? Let me share just a bit of my journey. I was privileged to grow up in a devoted Christian family and as a young boy experienced a transforming conversion to Christ. Our church believed and taught the Bible, and wholeheartedly sought to love Christ with mind, heart, and hands. After graduating from college, I joined a campus ministry devoted to evangelism and discipleship.
In addition to a decade of parachurch ministry, I attended and graduated from a fine evangelical seminary. It was during my seminary years while studying Hebrew that my mind and heart were drawn to a Hebrew word that frames God's creation design for human flourishing. This Hebrew word is tome or tamim. We usually translate tome as "blameless." The challenge with this English translation is we often associate blameless with an external ethical perfection. But the Hebrew word actually speaks of a broader concept of ontological wholeness.
From the early pages of the biblical story, we encounter the tome or integrated life as the life God designed for us, the life Jesus would come to a sin-ravaged planet in order to redeem. As a young church planting pastor, this theological framework from the biblical narrative still informed much of my thinking. Yet just a few years into ministry, I began to have a great deal of heart-level dissonance. My own spiritual formation anemic at best and I was seeing little true transformation in my parish. What I saw behind the nice Sunday smiles was a troubling lack of spiritual maturity, a shallow sanctification shrouding a dangerous disconnect between Sunday belief and Monday behavior.