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The New Christians

Here’s the next installment of an on-going conversation with Mark Patrick, my spiritual director.

Tony: Mark, I wonder if you’re willing
to tell us a bit about the last ten years of your life.  It seems like
it’s been quite a journey, and your experience has been extremely helpful to
me at the present moment.

Mark: You know I’ve gone
back and forth between being a pastor–who ends up doing a lot of
counseling–and being a therapist/counselor who has a deep appreciation for
the place one’s spiritual journey plays in life.  Ten years ago I was
working as a therapist.  While I enjoyed being of help to people in that
context I missed the ongoing relationship with people after they had made
progress with their current struggles/issues.  One of the aspects of
pastoral ministry I enjoy is knowing and walking-along-side of people through
the years… I often know a person’s family and history well–not
simply because someone attempts to explain it to me, but from my own
interaction with them.

    So, I began
working in a large church just south of Minneapolis, MN.  I felt I had something to
offer through my counseling background and my pastoral care experience. 
Often one of the challenges in working in a large church is the constant
emphasis on growth.  Some of it is a genuine desire to help people find a
meaningful faith.  Some of it is the subtle pressure to be successful, as
demonstrated by numbers of people and a growing budget.  With my focus
and personality I am continually concentrating on the individual person or
family and wanting to create a helpful connection in community. 

    When I
left the church position three years ago I began doing counseling again. 
Now while I continue with that I am expanding to also offer spiritual
direction/personal coaching.  One of my strong interests is learning to
make prayer a resource during challenging times.  I’m findiing this
refreshing and more honest connection with God and want to see
others experience it as well.  Another strong motivation I have is
assisting younger leaders as they find their way through the challenges
of working in a ministry context.  Part of my vision is to see
churches be as committed to their staff as the church want their staff workers
to be committed to their ministry.  We all need continuing education and
growth.  I see a growing need for a personal and practical resource for
leaders in ministry. 

    I’d be
interested in hearing what your commenters are finding to be
of help in their own life of faith–in or out of the church
context…

Tony: Yeah, I hope some people will chime in on that, too, Mark (although it seems people would rather comment on GLBT issues!).  In my own life, I never felt that I was very good at walking alongside people over an extended period of time.  That was definitely one of my struggles as a pastor — I always felt that I lived too much “in my head” to be of much help to others.

Prayer, on the other hand, is something that I’ve worked hard to incorporate in my own life.  Back when I was your kids’ youth pastor, I wrote a few books on it.  And now I’m exploring some types of prayer and meditation that you and I can discuss in coming weeks — I’m sure it will stretch the boundaries for some of my Christian readers.

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