I'm a pastor by the grace and prankishness of God.

I grew up pagan. My father was a thundering atheist and my mother a chaser of all things eastern: swamis, yogis, gurus. Dad was the "mocker" described in Proverbs, mom "the fool." I figured out what to do in any given situation by a combination of hard, spare logic (my dad) or mystical humbug (my mom). When I was 15, for instance, my mother talked me out of 50 hard-earned dollars to have my horoscope read by a "professional." What I received in turn was 12 pages of vague tripe, full of dark warning, bright promise, and gushing flattery. There was not one clear specific—do this, not that; go here, not there—among the whole lot.

At 21 I met Jesus. At 29 I became a pastor.

I had the wrong education—a bachelor's degree in fine art with a major in writing, a master's in interdisciplinary studies, with a major in American literature. I had virtually no training—a brief stint as a volunteer helper in youth ministry. I had ...

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