Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Moving "The Library" and Thinking Ministry

As you might imagine, I am in the midst of packing up my church office and preparing boxes to be transported to my office at St. Edward's. As I do so, I am struck again by how many books I have accumulated over a mere thirteen-plus years of ordained ministry. Book accumulation is both a personal inclination and a professional near-necessity. Yet as I begin to sort through this decade-and-a-half (includes three years in seminary) accumulation, I am struck not only by the volume and variety, not to mention the many that I have either not read at all or not read in a decade or more, but that most of the information I get now is most readily accessible via the Internet. Why do I need a big heavy tome of "Who's Who in the Bible" when a couple of keystrokes can get me the same information? The answer, most of the time, is that I don't. Hence the "donate" pile grows ever larger.

As I think about that, and about ministry in general, two things strike me. First, that this readily accessible information fits in a bit too neatly with our culture's frantic pace. Rather than walking over to the bookshelf, bringing back a book or three to my desk, and bending over the desk for some serious, protracted, and substantial research, doing things like sermon preparation too easily fall into the "check the Internet" temptation. Want to know what others have written on that? Check the Internet. Want a good sermon illustration? Check the Internet. Don't get me wrong, I'm in many ways a child of the Internet, and I grew up (and will now once again be ministering) in Silicon Valley, so I am hardly averse to technology. Yet a computer screen is necessarily a less prayerful and deliberate medium than the pages of a book. As I transition to this new call, perhaps there are some lessons to be learned there.

Second, I have been working my way through Kevin Martin's "5 Keys for Church Leaders". The first key he explores is that of the myth of the Pastor as CEO. His point is that in the twenty-first century, the Pastor or Priest is less the all-knowing expert and much more the group facilitator and encourager. I'm realizing that if I had actually read all of the books I own, I would have a huge amount of knowledge--only a fraction of which would likely be useful to me in the day-to-day activities of pastoral ministry. As someone who loves books and learning, it will be good for me to remember that.

Back to book sorting.....

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