How seminary changes your relationship with your church


Caravaggio-Saint-Jerome-header

I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how the difficulty of finding one’s voice in the midst of all the heroes you have going into seminary and the new ones you find. We end up doing a lot of mimicking and daydreaming about other people’s spiritual lives and gifts; it’s hard to find our truest selves in the midst of it. Further, I talk at length of the various ways that seminary changes the way that you, as a developing leader, relate to the leaders at your church. It’s also an interesting post to read on this All Soul’s Day. (On a side note, this post has a lot more to do with my experience years ago moving from one state to another for seminary than my current experience at my current church.) Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s an excerpt:

For many of us, attending seminary ends up changing our relationship with those people that have shaped and supported us and led us to that moment. For many, they are leaving supportive church families and leaders and doing school elsewhere. I’ve watched many of classmates have to go through a sort of internal “break-up” with their home churches and those pastors with whom they spent so much time. It hurts. They wonder why their pastors “back home” who were so supportive of seminary training won’t return emails. Can’t get together for coffee on school breaks. Won’t talk about possible job opportunities in the future.

Read the full post:
All My Heroes are Dead

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

[image credit: “St. Jerome” by Caravaggio]


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Seminary for the Whole Person: Practical Theology & Preaching Classes


paul-ultimo-crop
I recently had two more pieces of writing go up at the website Going to Seminary. They both have similar themes about freeing ourselves to engage in seminary with our whole selves. The first about how to make the most of your preaching class. Here’s the intro:

In seminaries, the most hit-or-miss class might be the occasional course on Preaching. I’ve had the unique experience of taking two different preaching courses at two very different seminaries. One course was incredibly dry, unhelpful, and boring. The other was life-giving, challenging, and skill-enhancing. And I’m here to tell you that a good preaching course in seminary can change so much more than how well you do behind a pulpit.

Read the rest: “Don’t Waste Your Preaching Course

The other post is about the most maligned set of courses in most seminaries: Practical Theology. These have the reputation for being the obligatory wishy-washy or touchy-feely classes that all the theologians just want to roll their eyes had. And yet, at my seminaries, I’ve had the opportunity to take Practical Theology courses that ended up being the most important classes I’d take. Here’s a preview:

As I’ve grown older, the sermons that used to feel so “applicable”, “practical”, and resonant now seem to have less and less resemblance to reality or the world around me. They seem to be words offered to imaginary, disembodied people I’ve never met; people that can simply receive the proclamations of God from his ordained authorities and then live lives of passionate obedience and response–those who can simply “hear the Gospel”, “preach it to themselves”, and be changed. That’s a fantasy world. It is not reality.

Read the rest: “Practical Theology: Seminary’s Red-Headed Stepchild

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.


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NEW POST: Christian (Seminary) Community is Hard & Painful


discipleship-silhouette

I’ve got a new post up at Going To Seminary where I talk about how it’s hard to make and sustain community, even in seminary. I’m writing mainly about my experience at in in-residence seminary program (my experience with distance learning has been quite different, as you can imagine). But, even if you’re not in seminary, the lessons in the piece are entirely applicable to general church life as well. Check it out, and let me know what you think! Here’s the intro:

Seminaries are weird creatures. In the beginning, most everyone is new and has to do the awkward dance of forming relationships while at the same time trying to find a flow for school to survive. It takes a unique person to really be a part of both the academics and communal side of seminary. And let’s face it: no one is holding your hand there; you mostly have to be self-motivated and spiritually self-sustaining, because the usual church structures that motivate, support and counsel just aren’t there at seminary. Even things like prayer groups and chapels are still only as helpful as the attention you put into them.

Read the full post:
Seminary Community is Hard & Hurts

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

(On a side note, I’m sorry that the picture above only has men in it. I hate that, but it represents some of the themes of the piece really well.)


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NEW POST: Why Sleep is an Essential Seminary Course


church-sleep-humor
I have such a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love it when I’m in it, but avoid it at all costs. I also have a new post on Going To Seminary in which I talk about sleep and the seminarian. No, it’s not just about how sleep is good for you, but how it actually affects us spiritually. Check it out. Here’s the intro:

In any school, especially graduate school—including seminary—one of its greatest costs is to one’s sleep. At least, I know that’s the case for me. I spent most of my adult schooling years with an average nightly sleep duration of 4 to 6 hours. And let’s be honest, for most of us that find ourselves staying up late, it’s often not that we’re doing school the entire time. Sometimes we’re trying to recover from the school work we’ve already finished, or maybe further putting off the work we’ve yet to do.

Read the full post:
“Sleep: One of Your Most Important Seminary Classes

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

New Seminary Post: Holy Week Music & Readings on Death


Jesus & The Cross

I have a new post on the site Going to Seminary. I am putting up occasional posts giving different things to read around the interwebs, and this week focuses on Holy Week and its theme of death–Christ’s Death, Our Death, and Death conquered. I also give some classical music suggestions for this week (more Lent music suggestions here). I link to articles about a sister in Christ who recently died well, a New York Times piece about watching family die, and some writings by non-Christians about death. It ends with one of my favorite quotes ever. May these writings help you press into this time and our Savior all the more deeply.

Read the full post:
“Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

Check out the rest of my Going To Seminary posts.

God in Her Glory {1b}: A Good Facebook Debate (for a change)


wwii-woman-we-can-do-it-feminismWow. I’ve actually been surprised at the response to the last post in this little mini-series on using feminine language to talk of God. I thought I was addressing one simple thing in the life of churches, but I misjudged the degree to which people would feel like this touched on everything from their thoughts on the Bible to the nature of Jesus himself. One of the best sets of exchanges was on Facebook in response to yesterday’s post. Below, I’ve reproduced a lightly edited version of the conversation. I hope you find it interesting as well. And let me know what you think!

DEBATER: Your post says, “The model of God as Father may be profound and true; but it is not the only model, and it does not render other models less true or profound.”  It’s Jesus’ own self-disclosure and revelation of God. It’s more important than any other ‘model’ and it isn’t really a model. “Father” is not a metaphor. Its a reality for Jesus. And I’m not talking about Jesus’ physicality like his weight or hair color. Jesus revelation is of God as Father. That’s the particularity. He said pray to God as father. And he’s the Son. That’s ontological. The feminine is redeemed in Jesus, but its redeemed not by Jesus taking on the sign of the feminine, but by taking on the sign of the masculine redeemer of the oppressed and abused feminine.

ME: Your last line especially uses terms and ideas entirely foreign to the Scriptures. I’m actually shocked that you saw no issue in writing that. Women need a male redeemer to be redeemed? Even if you point to the ancient cultural idea of the male kinsman-redeemer, surely you aren’t saying that this (clearly) cultural accommodation is some revelation of the essentially gendered nature of God and redemption? The Old Testament also had lambs being sacrificed, and not people. Does that mean that Jesus in some sense had to partly be an “actual” lamb rather than a metaphorical one?
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New Post on Why I’m Terrified of Seminary


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I have a new post on the blog of Best Seminary. It’s on the heart and soul that one brings into seminary and the hard things one wrestles through when considering it.

My biggest fear going into seminary (and perhaps it’s yours, as well?) is the whole question of whether it is my “False Self” that is called to it and pastoral work, rather than my “True Self”. I have spent much of my life following Spurgeon’s (I think) advice that if you feel called to ministry at all, try to do everything else in your life you possibly could do. If you still end up in ministry, then congratulations, you were called.

Read the full post: “Terrified of Going to Seminary? Join the Club.”

This blog’s got some new digs


blog-head-old

If you’ve come to the site in the past week, you probably saw some changes around here. I did indeed change the look here at the blog, but there’s surely still some kinks around. If you come across anything with weird formatting or such, please let me know.

Also, what do you think?

(Oh memories. That picture above? Yeah, that’s what the first iteration of this blog looked like, nearly ten years ago.)

My Gospel Terror, Acts, & Letters [photo sermon]


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Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Letters“.

* * * * *

I grew up in church and grew up loving the Bible. I did devotionals and sat in Sunday School classes for the vast majority of my life. And yet, it wasn’t until I got to my junior year of college and took a class on the Gospels that I read any of the Gospels all the way through. Sure, I had probably heard most of the Gospels preached on or excerpted in devotionals and books, but I had never read a Gospel from beginning to end.

At the time, I thought it was because they seemed too holy. It felt like too much for my young soul to handle to read the very words of Jesus on my own. It was too weighty for me and scared me. Maybe I just wanted to wait until I could drink whiskey or wine while reading them.
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Weekly Must-Reads {2.12.14} | Creation, Masturbation, & Communism


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Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?

__________

In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty

I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.

Escaping the Prison of the Self: C.S. Lewis on Masturbation | First Things
Wesley Hill

Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.

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On Not Following the Christian Blogosphere (a plea)


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I pride myself on thinking that a large percentage of the readers of this blog have no idea of this odd subculture/alternate universe that is the “Christian blogosphere”. So for those that don’t know: there is a very large labyrinth of (largely evangelical) blogs and conferences and podcasts and websites that are dedicated to talking about “the” “Christian view” on any manner of things that (1) really don’t affect much of people’s real lives or (2) seem kind of weird to have a “Christian view” of.

It’s not simply talking about things from a Christian perspective (like this blog), but rather doing so with a particular reactive, evangelical, tribal “flavor”. I’m sure I fall into that at times here, but I’m not proud of it and I try to act against it.

the dangers of the Christian blogosphere

There are two primary things about the nature of these sites that more easily lend themselves to human weakness, I feel.
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Good Morning (prayer)! [photo sermon]


ultimo-coffee-cortado

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Good Morning“.

* * * * *

In one of those oddities of tire human condition, I love sleep, and yet I avoid it like the plague. I have a terrible sleep schedule. My sleep pattern is a microcosm of my lack of discipline in many parts of life, and maybe even an extremely low level of self-harm, where my body and heart wouldn’t really know what to do if it were consistently well-rested. There’s something about a constant weight of tiredness that—maybe—makes one feel “productive”, even as it steals productivity away from you.

This is a lie. I know. I’m working on it in therapy.

In some Christian circles, people claim “life verses” for themselves; bits of the Bible that they feel speak to them so deeply that the words amount to a blanket summary, call, encouragement, guiding principle, or telos to their life. People usually pick a “life verse” that speaks to what they want their life to be or how they want God to work in their lives.

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Putting the FUN back in Fundamentalism! (vs. Atheism)


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For those that follow this blog only through WordPress, you may have seen the guest post yesterday–a beautiful meditation on spiritual realities that Autumn brings to our minds–and didn’t think much of it. It was pretty and all, but not controversial, right?

Not so, on Facebook.

A good friend, and Atheist (that we here at the blog know quite well), made a comment taking issue with references to the “Fall” and “first parents” (and even the Resurrection) on the grounds that these do not jive with evolutionary science. (Although I don’t think he clicked on the link to a similar post I wrote last year in which I used the same terminologies in the same way, but whatever.) He was surprised that I would have let a seemingly “young earth creationist” (someone who thinks the world was created in six literal days) post on my blog.

Though I assured him that this guest poster was not, in fact, a young earth creationist, and was merely speaking using the common poetic language shared by all of Christian theology and not at all trying to speak in scientific terms, he doubled down. Then, Christians and Atheists all jumped into this thread. Sarcasm, insults, and “who-said-what when” arguments began, all having little to do with the post, and more to do with who was condescending first, who understands genre theory, and who were the more aggressive and defensive parties in the discussion.
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The Reasons Why You Don’t Believe in Grace [LINK]


I absolutely love this. Very much related to my post from earlier today.

Elias Kruger

It started soon after you were born. As a baby, you were already being compared. In your first doctor visit and you were put in a percentile, literally comparing you to all the babies in the country. You may have grown in a loving home where you were accepted for who you were and cherished for just being there. Yet, some may not have been this lucky always being measured against the better behaving, smarter and prettier sibling. If you escaped that at home, you sure did not escape it in your social life. As you entered the playground, kids assessed you and so determined how you should be treated. Teachers and school teachers placed you in special classes based on your talents or lack thereof. From very early on, you were labeled.

As you have grown in you’re the educational system the message continued. They measured you by grades, liked or…

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Good News! I have a new & improved Twitter user name!


twitter-home-paulLast week, I put up a post asking for some help. For the past few years, I’ve had a terrible Twitter user name. I told the story of this previous name, and asked for some feedback on getting a new one. Well, that was a real help, because most people confirmed that using my full name (or some mixture thereof) was certainly the best, and I had totally forgotten than Twitter accepts underscores (“_”) (thanks, Jake Belder). So here is my new Twitter handle:

http://twitter.com/PaulBurkhart_

Profound, I know.

Anyway, for some reason, i end up posting more on Twitter than I do other places (and being a little bit more honest and blunt than in other venues). So let’s follow each other and become best friends, 160 characters at a time.

Oh, and if you notice any of my other sites that I haven’t updated to this new user name, please let me know. Thanks!