I get my best help from writers who did not set out to help me.

Pastoral work is demanding, and I need lots of help. Fortunately, a lot is offered, much of it in the form of books. Theologians and counselors, scholars and consultants write for me. I am informed by their knowledge, guided by their counsel.

But I get my best help from writers who did not set out to help me. My most valued allies in ministry are those who write novels and poems. I think I know why. The act of creation is at the heart of life, whether in biology or in faith.

Pastors wake up in the middle of this creative work every morning. We also wake up amid many uncreative, behind-the-scenes responsibilities. These routines are the most visible parts of my life. I prepare sermons, visit people, administer programs.

Most books directed my way try to help me in these visible areas. But I also need help in the invisible parts—the creative center. Creation and re-creation—making lives to the glory of God—is the core of the gospel, of the Spirit’s work, of pastoral work.

Often, however, this center is moved to the periphery, and “creative” means nothing more than “interesting” or “innovative.” Who is there to keep me aware of the very nature of creation, the work that goes into it, the way it feels?

My allies are the novelists and poets, writers who are not telling me something, but making something.

Novelists take the raw data of existence and make a world of meaning. I am in the story-making business, too. God is drawing the people around me into the plot of salvation; every word, gesture, and action has a significant place in the story. Being involved in the creation of reality like this takes endless patience ...

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