Just what we need, another book
What is the prime motivation for writing a book? If you think it's a financial thing then you're in for a reality check. Sure, Americans spent $28 billion dollars buying 2.7 billion books in 2014 (source: The Association of American Publishers web site, accessed here). A mere $553.8 million was spent in the religious books category. Still, with revenues like that you'd think profit may drive the passion in the authors of America. But, alas, that's the impetus for only a small number of writers. One of the sites I studied to gather a little research about what pushes the pen in the United States reported that only 1% of books written make it into the vast number of bookstores in the country. Even more, book publishing is on the decline. Go figure!
My research department asked one other author why he wrote a religious book several years ago and he indicated passion as motivation one. That would resonate with me to some degree, though the lines aren't that clean or the motives that absolute. I wrote Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry as a result of several compulsions---
1. A thirty-five year burden for pastors and church staffers.
2. Alarming statistics regarding ministerial tenure and the rigors of ministry.
3. Prior experience that denominational systems cannot provide what is
necessary to encourage, strengthen, and assist troubled ministers.
4. A life-long love affair with words, books, and other written media.
5. A career belief that God had a next chapter for me after retirement.
The affinity for the ministerial cohort wasn't clearly obvious to me until 2001. During seminary and my first two pastorates there was a noticeable ease in talking to and listening to people preparing for ministry. The first evidences were while a student at SEBTS and serving as a full-time pastor at a church close to the seminary campus. At the time these relationships were most often credited to my age, since I was older than most seminary students and other pastors serving local churches. In the second church more than 20 individuals answered calls to ministry, mostly they said as a result of my being attuned to verbalizing the mystery of His call over my life.
In 2001, during the fifteenth year of my service at Hampton Heights Baptist Church, Reggie McNeal approached me to discuss the position of Director of Pastoral Ministries at the South Carolina Baptist Convention, vacant at the time. Several friends and mutual acquaintances had recommended me to him, Director of the Leadership Development Team at the SCBC. Honestly, I had never considered denominational service. But, he indicated that several in my circle of pastor friends had suggested my name as a candidate for that particular position. It involved a move and a sizeable pay reduction. But, after Harriet and I prayed through the matter, I accepted the challenge and we moved to Columbia. Here's the deal. No one, and I mean, no one, was surprised at the move. Everyone indicated that it was a natural for me. Everybody but me knew there was a deep love and appreciation for people called to ministry. Beign a pastor to pastors in an official capacity helped to surface that burden.
Three years in that position involved the sharpest learning curve adjustment in my fifty two year life. Every day was a tutorial in the rigors of ministry and the hazards of church life. My twenty years in ministry at that time had been relatively sedate, three pastorates requiring strong leadership and transition stress from a rural church approach to suburban ministry. But, those three years exposed me to the many unhealthy norms of church life in America. My love, appreciation, and burden for spiritual leaders became a controlling interest and passion for me.
When I left that position to become Lead Pastor at Northwood Baptist Church, this special attachment for ministers was ramped up to a new high. This church loved them too, and became a central location for minister support and encouragement.
Finish. Period. Going the Distance in Ministry was written out of this burden. It's not going to make the best-seller list and isn't going to generate income so Harriet and I can retire in Maui anytime soon. My goal at the outset was simple: if this little book will help one minister endure the hardships of spiritual leadership in these times, then it will be successful. it was written from an overwhelming burden for those called to serve his church. My prayer? What the Apostle Paul wrote to Philemon is so meaningful and expressive of my desire for the book---
For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the
hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
Philemon 1:7, ESV
More to follow this week. Thanks.