The Road Goes Ever On

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
~Tolkien 

Dear Reader, I launched this blog five years ago last month. When I started The Life of Things, Rachel and I had four of our five kids. I was a carpenter by day and student of theology by night.

I needed a place to share my love for the Bible and my love for reading. At the time, I didn’t say things that way. I talked about ‘The Great Books’, Western Civ., and the ‘Western Canon’. I was a carpenter who caught the learning bug, and I wanted to share things with the world.

I finished studying for a theological degree and started blogging about Christianity and Culture. I wanted to see how Christians could benefit themselves and their surrounding culture by reading their Bibles with more knowledge and the great literature of the west with more heart.

I’m thankful I’ve never lacked for good friends willing to talk with me about these things: Ole’ Abe, Adam, Joshua, Nathan J., Chris, Thomas, and Nathan F, and Matt Bulman, who has worked the angles here on this blog.

Following my ordination in 2017, I wanted to write for new reasons. I wanted The Life of Things to feature a conversation, a picture of the many sides of evangelicalism making its way through the sea of discipleship and culture. At the same time, I wanted to write more about my own life. I still plan to continue the project that I and others started at The Life of Things, but I wanted to share another project that I’ve been working on. 

A few months ago (sorry for hiatus), I began working on another blog to be able to write from my perspective as a husband, father, and pastor. Dear reader, would you mind checking out my new site, bdlocklear.com? Take a moment to subscribe, there won’t be any cross posting from this site. To give you a feel for what I aim to do on this new blog, I’ve copied the following from my ‘About’ page below:

I’m an assistant pastor at Grace Bible Church in Winston Salem, NC. I’ve been married for fourteen years and I have five children. My writing here reflects my calling as a husband, father, and pastor.

As with my marriage and parenting, my pastoral work came with a learning curve. I initially understood pastoral work to look something like the life of a monk- hidden away for the labors of reading, writing, and preaching. I wasn’t prepared for the need to become a generalist, a practitioner of the everyday. Greek grammar and old books (as important as they are) need to be coupled with small talk, prayer, and life together with the congregation.

Pastors are more like shepherds than church CEOs. This blog reflects my effort to be an observer- to ask how we’re handling ordinary life and finding ourselves being formed into the people God intends us to be. Many of us complain today that our mental lives are distracted and shapeless. I’m writing here to pause, to observe, and to pay attention to how we’re making our way through the Babylon that is our American culture.

I’m learning that the pastoral calling is often a haphazard and messy process. Eugene Peterson once shared an anecdote about William Faulkner in his memoir, The Pastor:

William Faulkner was once asked how he went about writing a book. His answer: “It’s like building a chicken coop in a high wind. You grab any board or shingle flying by or loose on the ground and nail it down fast.

Like becoming a pastor.

Hope to see you there. The peace of the Lord,

Bobby Locklear

Oh, this old thing?

Words are immensely seductive, in ways we don’t often recognize. Their power can perhaps most clearly be seen in young children, who become fascinated by new words and look for every possible opportunity to use them. Now, in fact, adults are no different in this respect: we just have learned to do a better job than our younger counterparts of obscuring our fascination, of pretending that a phrase brand new to us has been part of our word hoard forever. Oh, this old thing? But we turn the shiny new phrases over and over in our minds, as a miser fondles the coins in his pockets.


~Alan Jacobs, How to Think, page 90.

Missing Practices

I led my first small group at my church nearly ten years ago. After assuming the title of Assistant Pastor of Discipleship and Small Groups (helpfully abbreviated APOD&SG), I started reading everything I could on small group ministry. I rarely found what I was looking for.

There was plenty to read and consider: recruiting and training leaders, practicing hospitality, writing discussion material, and easing through small group dynamics. I also learned how to develop our small groups without cannibalizing the church itself.

But the most popular materials never seemed to mention the practices of writing or prayer- practices that became necessary to do my pastoral work at all. I’m sure no one would say these practices were unimportant. They were apparently assumed. I suspected they weren’t mentioned because they weren’t practiced.

If we assume a ministry is attending to prayer without consistent instruction and practice we can create a kind of ecclesiastical Ponzi scheme. No real work is really being done in prayer. Why else don’t we have more to say about how these practices should shape our small group ministries? Pastoral work without prayer and writing is as useful as carpentry without tools.

Limited experience taught me that prayer opens my eyes to the presence and work of God. How else could I learn repentance and petition, confession and blessing? Prayer taught me that God had taken the initiative in every situation I entered. Rather than asking “what do I need to do to get things going,” I began to ask, “what is God doing here that I need to be aware of?”

“I can be a pastor who prays,” wrote Eugene Peterson in The Contemplative Pastor. Peterson was a lone voice in my wilderness:

I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all of life to be intimate—sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously—with the God who made, directs, and loves me. And I want to waken others to the nature and centrality of prayer. I want to be a person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying.

The Contemplative Pastor Page 29

In time, writing became a physical expression of my praying. Like prayer (at its best), writing clarifies and reflects meditation. “As I mused, the fire burned.”* Pen and paper now take on new energy as I consider the normal difficulties of ministry. We need more leaders in our church. How can I train the leaders we have? How will I handle this difficult conversation?

Small groups have great potential for helping the church in her task of spiritual formation. We all have a lot of work to do. As for me, I will write and pray.

BL

*Psalm 39:3, ESV

Suggestions

Let’s say you’d like for me (or anyone else) to hear your controversial position on [insert subject here]. I have a few suggestions:

  1. If it’s controversial, let’s shy away from links to Facebook posts.
  2. YouTube videos are fun, but not for settling a controversial problem (unless it’s a debate showing different perspectives). Get something in print, maybe?
  3. If you share an article or book, note what section or main idea I should consider.
  4. Work hard to be specific about the point you’re trying to make. It’s easier to evaluate a single well-defined problem than a barrel of confusion.
  5. If you’d like to spark my interest, make sure I don’t have to work harder than you to keep things going. This was your idea, remember?