What legitimacy is there to "me" focused ministerial training?

I struggle with a ministerial education that is "me" centered. I trust and believe that if we focus our attention on God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the transformative training that is expected through self-reflection will occur, but in a much more profound and meaningful way. If we remain even other-focused, we will be able to more strongly identify our own theological positions and identify what makes "me" me, because we will see our thoughts and beliefs held in comparison to others. But, when we are trained to delve into our own personal spiritual biographies and experiences, we miss out on having a standard by which to compare ourselves and our experiences. Yes, it is by sharing our own stories that we are able to hear other stories, but from where do our own stories gain legitimacy or are tested for erroneous thinking? Perhaps it is by hearing others stories and learning more about God's story (believing that God does have a story apart from my individual existence) that we become better able to understand and articulate our own stories. What benefit is there to training a minister to be "me" focused when ministers already on a whole tend to struggle with the temptations of pride and arrogance? How is a minister able to faithfully make healthy sacrifices if he or she is motivated by his or her own needs? Doesn't this motivation cause him or her to make unhealthy sacrifices, because his/her perspective is limited rather than broad?


Katie Z. said…
hmmm, i found this really interesting, and i'm guessing it comes out of CPE =)

I thought it was interesting that you said "what benefit is there to training a minister to be "me" focused when ministers already on the whole tend to struggle iwth the temptations of pride and arrogance?" I actually think I disagree with this statement, which is why I think there is some legitimacy to the being of ministry.

I have been so surprised in my own journey, and also in those of my colleagues how many of us feel unworthy, unacceptable, unfit for the tasks that God has called us to. I just counseled a congregation member as he struggled to accept a calling to become a preacher with a local circuit and his number one struggle was not feeling worthy, of having too much history, too much baggage, too much past for the job.

I also have a whole three and a half years of Vanderbilt indoctrination into the "thinking, being and doing" of ministry =) (oh, bother) where we focused a lot on who we are in relation to God, others, etc. And much of that was exactly by being able to tell our stories and then find them in the stories of faith, in the stories of others, etc.

I think in some ways you answered your own question. I never really saw it as "me" centered... but as starting with me and then figuring out how I fit in to God's story. Or, how God is calling me to fit into the story. You are totally right though, there is a very weird and hard to discern line between my needs and God's needs. Some times they are right in sync with one another, and at other times, that couldn't be farther from the truth.

I do think though that the "me" focus is there to help you ground yourself - in your own experiences of God, in your own life and story, so that out of that (all of that, which God has given you) you can minister to others.

I told some sort of personal stories in my sermon this morning and I'm always amazed at how those sermons go over so much better with the congregation than the ones in which I am more impersonal. When I use my own struggles and questions as a jumping off point for entering the gospel, it gives people permission to do the same. To really encounter God with there true, full, whole selves.

I'd LOVE to keep thinking about these questions with you!!!
"A soul which gives itself to prayer, either much or little, should on no account be kept within narrow bounds. Since God has given it such great dignity, permit it to wander at will through the rooms of the castle, from the lowest to the highest. Let it not force itself to remain for very long in the same mansion, even that of self-knowledge. Mark well, however, that self-knowledge is indispensable, even for those whom God takes to dwell in the same mansion with Himself. Nothing else, however elevated, perfects the soul which must never seek to forget its own nothingness. Let humility be always at work, like the bee at the honeycomb, or all will be lost. But, remember, the bee leaves its hive to fly in search of flowers and the soul should sometimes cease thinking of itself to rise in meditation on the grandeur and majesty of its God. It will learn its own baseness better thus than by self-contemplation, and will be freer from the reptiles which enter the first room where self-knowledge is acquired. Although it is a great grace from God to practise self-examination, yet ‘too much is as bad as too little,’ as they say; believe me, by God’s help, we shall advance more by contemplating the
Divinity than by keeping our eyes fixed on ourselves, poor creatures of earth that we are." - St. Teresa of Avila - chapter 2

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