Book Review: Faith Forming Faith by Paul E. Hoffman

What would the church, or the world for that matter, be like if we were to follow in the original teachings and faith formation of the founders of the church?

Paul Hoffman brings this question to the forefront as he examines the adult catechumen and the effect that it can have on a congregation from various perspectives with some great real life stories do backup the practice that he started in his congregation in Seattle. I had the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop with Hoffman and his heart his truly in the right place as he seeks to bring people not just closer to God but to others in relationship as they not only enter as members into a congregation, but also as they commit to the Way in which the earliest disciples followed.

If you want a specific how-to guide, this book will not answer your questions. It will point you in a direction that can have a positive impact on those in your congregation and those that are looking for an authentic community in which to live out their calling as people of God.

This has some meat to it, unlike the typical new members classes that we do as a church that really fail at getting people into a deeper relationship with one another and building a connection within the church. I have done some of these new member classes only to see people fail to make a connection and leave after a short time. Everything must start with a relationship and I believe Hoffman presents a completely open process that leads people to a deeper relationship with one another (especially a mentor that they are give). The appendix does point towards some starting points and provides an entry for congregations and its leaders to enter into a discussion of what it means to follow The Way. There is a commitment required that truly connects the person to the process and they must be willing to be a part of it. While all types of people are in a given community, the ones that are committed and willing to give of themselves are the ones that play a vital role in the future of an congregation.

Book Review: Racing the Rain by John L. Parker, Jr.

This book follows up Parker’s two other books about Quenton Cassidy, Once a Runner and Again to Carthage.  Once a Runner is a book that must be on every runners must read list. I would argue that the other two are just as good.

In Racing in the Rain, the reader has the opportunity to get to know Quenton from an early age and then continue to grow up through middle school and high school. Many of the characters that are present are recognizable from Parker’s other books. This familiarity pulls you deeper into the story and willing to find out more. Parker writes very well and lays the story out in a way that lets the reader in on the mind of Quenton Cassidy and how he became the runner that he is in the other two novels.

This is book, along with the other two, is great motivation for the person that needs a little fire under their butt to get out and run or simply to get active. It may not work for all people, but it has encouraged me to lace up the running shoes and put some time in.

Writing a book or novel?

Last month when perusing Facebook I saw a post from a fellow pastor promoting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Actually, he was taking a spin on it and asked if anyone would like to participate in NaTheoWriMo (National Theology Writing Month). The goal is to write a novel or book over the course of November that equals 50000 words (approximately 1667 words a day).

As pastors, we write an awful lot during the week and with sermons, newsletter articles, correspondences, and various other writings I am sure that most pastors write several thousands words over the course of a week. I saw this as a challenge and thought that for sure it may be something that I would love to participate in because there are some ideas that I have been wanting to get to paper/computer. I have wanted to try my hand at writing a novel (possibly Biblically based), as well as something theological in nature as I share my story of being called into this crazy and wonderful profession as pastor.

I got as far as thinking through a book, a theological memoir perhaps, with a working title and the direction it may go. However, reality also hit, and I have realized that I am only two months into my new call and there are some other things that I also must commit myself to as I build relationships with the people that we are now living among. So, NaNoWriMo, I am not forgetting about you, and I may actually continue getting some thoughts to screen but my focus at this time is directed to the people that have called me to serve them as their pastor. Next November I may have new stories to share and thoughts to get out that I will not want to forget. Until then I still am looking forward to the challenge.

Book Review: A New Beginning for Pastors and Congregations

What a wonderful resource. This book by Kennon L. Callahan sets up some essential direction for those that are seeking a new call, or have received, and the congregation that is in the process.

Callahan provides some great guidelines from the first day to looking towards the future. Of course, this is not a one size fits all for all situations and congregations, but it does lay some good foundations in which pastors and congregations can build upon. This was a great read for myself as I begin a new call and look towards where God may be calling the congregation.

My one suggestion is that this book would be read prior to a call being extended by both the pastor and the congregation as some of the process is expected to be in place at the beginning, but would also be good for those times when a pastor and congregation wants to begin anew.

Callahan lays the groundwork as well for building a new team as different leaders will come out of the woodwork to support a different pastor with a different personality and leadership style. The four steps that he believes truly beneficial in the process are

  1. Discover your team.
  2. Decide your objectives.
  3. Structure your team.
  4. Coach your team.

These are good points to keep in mind as you move forward. At the beginning relationships must be built and so that you can determine who will fit into those steps. I look forward to seeing how this book will help guide me and the congregation into the future.

Confirmation Celebration!

What a wonderful day we had this past Sunday. Of course we had the opportunity to sing A Mighty Fortress is Our God, because after all it was Reformation Sunday, but we also had the opportunity to celebrate with six confirmands whom had the opportunity to affirm their faith!

I did not have the chance to lead these six youth through confirmation classes as I have not been in my call for even two months. Through reading their faith statements though, I have a sense for what they have learned and the challenges and growth that have already come to them.

It is my prayer that as they continue in their walk that they strive to learn more about themselves and to discern where God is calling them in their lives.

This is a great fun picture from Sunday afternoon!

Being in Relationship

Relationships take time to build. This is a point within life that is true no matter what profession you are in or where you live. Relationships are all around us, and yet we at times tend to hope they will just work out on their own.

As a pastor I don’t really have the luxury of just letting things be. It is through my relationship with God that I am called to be in relationship with the people of my congregation and eventually with the people in the community in which I reside. It is a lot of work though and does not come easy.

Prior experiences have helped as I enter into relationship with my new congregation and names are starting to come to me as I connect faces and names. The thought that God knows all of God’s children by name is overwhelming as I am starting to get to know just a few hundred people.  Being in relationship is much more than knowing names though. It is listening to stories and truly getting to know those around you that have a role in your life.

May God continue to be with us in this time of building and being in relationship. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit to get to know one another and listen to one another’s stories.

The Order of Melchizedek


One of the Lectionary readings for this coming Sunday is Hebrews 5:1-10. We get a brief glimpse and mention of a priest named Melchizedek. Don’t be discouraged if you have no clue who this reference is to. He has little reference throughout the Bible, yet appears to be someone that we should somewhat look up to. The author of Hebrews places Jesus in the same realm, with God telling Christ, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” (vs 6)

Melchizedek is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4). He comes even before the Levitical priesthood and could thus be seen as one of the first priests, as Abraham paid tithes to him. The author of Hebrews goes into further discussion on Melchizedek in chapter 7.

For Christ to be a part of this priesthood, it shows his importance outside of the hereditary line of the Levitical priests and therefore the author of Hebrews may be trying to garner a little more support for Christ. The image of Jesus being a “priest” is nearly foreign to the New Testament, yet this image is an important one among the Hebrew people and places an authority within Christ that some may not have recognized otherwise.

Does it matter to us today whether Christ is part of this “priesthood”? I am not sure if that is necessary in light of the rest of the Gospel that we have to follow. It does though allow us to make some connections to the Hebrew ancestry.

Book Review: A Full Life, Reflections at Ninety by Jimmy Carter


I will admit that the majority that I knew of Jimmy Carter was just what I learned along the way through conversation or an occasional article I may read. Yes, he was the President when I was born, but I never took time to do any specific research on him. I knew that he was a peanut farmer and also a Lions Club member. I also knew that he was instrumental in the success of Habitat for Humanity.

Reading A Full Life reflects truly on the fullness of life that Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalyn, has lived. Now that he has been diagnosed with cancer, I am glad that I took the opportunity to get to know him a little better.

He was virtually an unknown when elected governor of Georgia and was still widely unknown when launching his campaign for President. Social media as just word of mouth back in the seventies and took a little longer to travel than it does today in virtually nano-seconds through Facebook and any other social media application. His ability to win the election in 1976 was just one step in his full life. The impact that he has had following the presidency around the world has be tremendous. While not a popular President, he has made played essential roles in helping ending disease in certain parts of the world, building houses, and attempting to bring peace to areas of tension and turmoil.

In doing all of this, he has maintained a closeness to his roots; he still attends the same church in Plains, Georgia and enjoys teaching Sunday school. His desire to respect the full humanity of all of those he has encountered throughout his life his one to be set as an example.

Overall, A Full Life, sets a tone for the life that Carter has lived thus far. It is simple in its presentation and speaks clearly to the reader. Within its pages are many pictures that touch upon various aspects of his life. The one thing that truly draws your attention is his own personal paintings within the pages which range from portraits of his parents to his home in Plains. The few poems included within its pages also show someone that is in touch with his inner-self and is open and willing to share with others. While this memoir may move slow at times, it is a great reflection upon seasons of Carter’s life.

May God Bless him and his family as they live into the future and bring healing to them as they face their newest challenges, like they do everything else, head on.

Fear Breeds Hate

Why is it that we are so often afraid of those things that we know little about? This weekend there are protests that are taking place near Muslim mosques around the country, most closely Dearborn, MI. Not only do these protests appear to be anti-Muslim, they are also being promoted by open-carry gun groups.

This does not speak to anything that Jesus would have promoted within his life or to this day. How does this reflect the idea that we should love our neighbors? ELCA Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, questions this as she speaks in opposition to these protests:

“As Christians, we are freed in Christ to love and serve our neighbors. Today our neighbors include Muslims – upstanding faithful Americans. The enemy we face is not Islam but hatred and fear. I join my sisters and brothers in calling for gestures of solidarity with our American Muslim neighbors. Together we can witness to the world that God’s love will have the last word.”

Why a mysterious way?

I view God through the lens of someone that has not grown up in the church and been shaped by the tradition that seems to think it knows what is right and what is wrong. I am open to the possibility of anything happening in our midst and welcoming God into all spaces of life, because truly God is already present in those spaces. I don’t believe we can explain it away either. It is something that we sense in our inner being and something that reaches out to be accepted and loved. Truly, it is a mysterious way. God may call us all in different directions, yet we are all centered in the one eternal being.

William Cowper’s hymn, God Moves in a Mysterious Way speaks some to this. It conveys a message of God’s presence in all things and a desire to be with us in our lives.

  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.