This is my 114th blog post. That comes out to more than ten posts per month since I started this blog last October. More than 150,000 words, which is about the same number as in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer combined. Before I started the blog, some friends had encouraged me to write a book, but I didn’t know if I had that much to say. I couldn’t believe that I could write that many words. Now I know that I can.
As I said, this is my 114th blog post. It is also my last… for a while, at least.
It isn’t that I have run out of something to say. Anybody who knows me well will tell you that I almost never run out of things to say. It isn’t that I am finding it difficult to put my thoughts into words. I haven’t developed a case of “writer’s block.” It also isn’t that I have fallen into a pit of despondency and am too depressed to write. I’ve written about my tendencies in that direction, what Abraham Lincoln called “a misfortune, not a fault.” Actually, writing this blog has helped me deal with dark days like that, and I almost always feel better after I have published a blog post.
I had two goals in mind when I started blogging. First, I wanted to see if I had the discipline and determination to produce a piece of quality writing on something like a regular basis for some extended period of time. While others will need to be the ultimate judge of whether I have delivered a quality product, from my biased perspective, I believe that I have realized my first goal, and I found that I enjoy doing it.
Second, I wanted to tell my story. That is, I wanted to narrate the course of my spiritual pilgrimage, believing that others could benefit from my account of the risks and the consequences associated with a “relentless pursuit of authentic faith.” In the process, I wanted to lay out the vision which I believed God had planted in me for a new church and ministry center in Columbus, Ohio, near the campus of The Ohio State University. That vision has not yet come to fruition, but I have been able to articulate it here, and so I have realized the second goal for the blog.
I’m stepping away from this blog because I need some time to clear my head, reevaluate my circumstances, and determine where I want (or need) to focus my attention and energy for the remainder of my active ministry. I say “active ministry,” but I’m not at all certain that I have any active ministry yet ahead of me. That is not a comment designed to elicit pity or stir up a chorus of voices of reassurance and encouragement. It is a straightforward statement of fact.
I have written much about the circuitous path of my life from Fundamentalism through mainstream Evangelicalism to Anabaptism and, finally, to the liturgical tradition of Anglicanism. Having lived the experience, it all makes sense to me, each succeeding chapter flowing logically out of the one before it, propelled by the guiding and energizing power of the Holy Spirit. Many of those who have been my traveling companions for various legs of the journey, however, can’t appreciate the logic of the flow. They see difficult transitions from one tradition to another, and since they never sensed a need to make a move of that sort, they can’t quite figure out why I have.
The only exception to that pattern, and I admit it is a formidable exception at that, would be a sizable number of my former students (from my fourteen years of teaching in a Mennonite Bible college) who have followed my last transition carefully and have, to some degree anyway, made it with me. I don’t mean to suggest that my students, most of whom came from Mennonite background, have forsaken their tradition in order to accompany me into Anglicanism. I only mean that, owing to their willingness to explore new vistas and to the bond that develops between a teacher and student when the classroom dynamic is at its optimum, these young people have hung in there with me as our relationship has matured into genuine friendship.
Unfortunately, I can’t establish a church built around a core group of my former students who are spread across the country. And so far, my sojourn among Anglicans has not resulted in a network that could generate such a “missional core” for the church plant. Time is passing, I’m not getting any younger, and that’s why I raise the possibility that I may have no more “active ministry,” so far as a local congregation is concerned.
Some have suggested that this blog, and some associated opportunities which might flow out of it, such as eBooks and a podcast, might be a vital focus for my future ministry. I do intend to explore both of those possibilities. I purchased, just last week, a microphone to use for recording a podcast, and I’m beginning to compile the content for an eBook.
But as much as I want to be faithful in the use of my God-given gift for communication, I have come to the place where I feel as though I am communicating out of a vacuum. I last served as a pastor nearly twenty years ago. I had a productive ministry, particularly in the classroom, for much of the time since then, but I was mainly a theorist. I would like to spend the last years of my ministry as a practitioner. Nothing compares to the vibrancy and challenge and, yes, the frustration of the week-in, week-out experience of parish ministry. I love writing, and I have done enough radio work to know that I will enjoy doing a podcast. But I yearn to test my ideas in the crucible of a local congregation.
If my vision for St. Patrick’s is not going to materialize, I need to explore other options, since I know I am going to be restless until I find some context in which to push out the real-life implications of the ideas and concepts regarding Kingdom discipleship, spiritual formation, and cultural engagement which God has been cultivating in me over the past few years.
That’s why I am stepping back from this blog for a while. If I take it up again (and I think it will really be when I take it up again…), it will be with redefined goals and a clearer focus for where I want to go and what I want to accomplish with the blog.
According to WordPress, the platform I use to create this blog and publish it to the world, my blog receives an average of about 25 “views” every day, seven days a week, whether I publish a new post or not. I don’t know how many different people that statistic represents, and I don’t know how that compares to other blogs after roughly a year of publication, but it seems like a fairly small “world” to me. So I will need to take all of that into consideration as I think through my options and determine a future course of action.
More than almost anything else, I need to find a source of gainful employment, or I need to have a renewed sense that I should continue to sit tight, do what I have the opportunity to do (which includes this blog), and keep trusting God to open doors and to give me the assurance that I am being faithful in my “relentless pursuit of authentic faith.”
My heartfelt thanks to you who read this blog regularly. I hope you don’t feel that your time has been wasted. And, as always…
Soli Deo Gloria.