In anticipation of this year’s Talking Points conference, I interviewed all three authors of “Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving.” I wanted to learn more about their research as well as their individual perspectives on pastoral wellbeing.
The following is an excerpt from my interview with Dr. Tasha Chapman, professor of educational ministries at Covenant Theological Seminary. After beginning her career as an engineer, Tasha served in campus ministry for five years. She then served overseas in international student ministry and women’s ministry before returning to the United States. She has also worked on staff at a church and in student life at Covenant.
Meryl: What are the biggest obstacles to flourishing in ministry today?
Tasha: One of the biggest obstacles to flourishing is that the pace of our culture seems to just keep increasing. We have some data about this, and there’s some good research about it. I feel like we even sense it just year to year: the pace that we’re having to change our technology, the pace that we’re having to learn new technology, the pace at which we’re communicating, the amount of people we’re communicating with on a daily basis, etc., seems to go up. Then, the research is showing with that going up, our actual relational isolation is also going up. I think that challenge, that technology, change, and isolation all increasing together…I think that that’s really hard.
I think globalization is really beautiful when the church is pushed towards the beauty of God’s diversity and the call to unity in Christ, but it’s really hard on us to know what’s happening all over the world all the time and have that amount of information in data, in a sense, at our fingertips 24/7. Again, that’s a pace issue.
That’s an amount issue that’s so big. How do we deal with that? I didn’t use to have to wake up in the morning and wonder what was happening with friends all over the world each day. It used to be okay just to get that airmail letter in the fancy blue bin–a letter once a month, and that was okay.
The pressure, the expectations, and that pace continues to get faster and faster. I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge. It’s not very human. It doesn’t feel very creationally-related to how God created us as physical, very limited, very time-bound, physical space-bound creatures.
Meryl: I love that globalization piece. I feel that on Facebook. Everybody’s got a cause that they want you to care about, and it’s just this constant noise in your brain. I think to myself, “I feel like I have to care about human trafficking, and I have to care about”—I mean, yes, I do care about it, but my body does not have the capacity to hold the emotional weight of children in cages at the border, fires in Australia, an earthquake in Puerto Rico. I don’t have the capacity to steward all of that emotionally, and it’s just extra noise. I love how you talked about how we’re time-bound; we’re limited human beings. I think that’s just so wise.
Tasha: I go back to Ephesians 2:10. We know verses eight and nine really well, but don’t always remember, “Wow, I’m God’s created work for this good work he’s put in front of me, but that’s me in my limitedness, and that’s just in front of me today.” I mean, obviously, I can pray, but even there, my ability to pray for Puerto Rico and, frankly, our students in Iran right now and, like you say, my friends in Australia, apart from those our capacities are so limited compared to this onslaught of constant information that comes with expectation. It comes with emotional weight. I think it’s very hard, and the addiction to the technology and the way it’s changing our brain chemistry just makes it harder ’cause you have one more addiction, one more thing that can become an idol, to use Biblical language, in our lives. It takes us away from a hope, a sure hope, sovereignty in God and His good work that I get to be part of today, and the joy of that.