IS THERE LIFE AFTER PREACHING?
My SHOUT-OUT for PASTOR ALAN ORSER
Eventually, in the blessed stretch of years, many pastors and church leaders reach retirement. How do you turn off the creative writing of sermons after sermons, month after month for decades? How do you keep from the depressing mindset of having been “put out to pasture”?
For 27 years Alan faithfully discharged his calling from God to the ministry. He had a comfortable built-in “market” with a growing congregation which came eagerly to receive his spiritual nourishment and inspiration. He could look into their eyes and measure their response. Was his calling recinded now?
In the years preceding his retirement, I encouraged my Canadian friend Alan, who served a church in Nova Scotia, to channel his creative writing of decades into the blogosphere upon retirement. I challenged him to look upon this life milestone not as an end to his calling but the “first day of the rest of his life” in a new writing direction.
I cautioned him, however, that a blog post wasn't simply a warmed-over sermon or a three-point message but an entirely different genre. He shouldn't come across preachy, and of course no one would pass the collection plate! Each post should be no longer than a page and more like a slice of life or a vignette. Yet the viewer expects it to contain all the elements of an inspirational short story.
Good news and bad news? Alan's new blog audience would no longer be limited to one location. His opportunity might now span the world, but he would have to go about assembling his own “congregation.” And he wouldn't have the luxury of seeing the response of his unseen viewers.
Eager, but like a hardy, determined salmon leaping upstream, Alan struggled with the transition between preaching and blogging. Initially, he didn't think he could set it up himself and “keep it running” since he wasn't technically inclined. It would be a formidable, serious commitment.
True, but there were ways around that. A friend offered set-up help and he has homespun, ongoing assistance in editing from his university professor wife, Sandi, to whom credit is due.
Alan wasn't put off with the challenge and jumped in with his usual enthusiasm. He perceptively visualizes his blog listeners as a mix between people like his former congregation, viewers from other Christian persuasions, and folks in the secular world.
That sounds like a mission impossible. But well into his second year now, his blog posts have turned out to be a sturdy bridge that could have been over troubled waters. However, under the blog title of “Explorers of the Way,” he walks successfully over that bridge. He relates to sincere seekers and steers clear of being perceived as writing from a pedestal position. Alan is not reticent or compromising to share his own faith and discoveries, at the same time respecting his viewers' privilege to make up their own minds.
To tell the truth I'm tempted to “steal” some of Alan's great ideas, develop them in my own way, and offer them transformed to my roster of blog viewers. Alan and I have a happy reciprocal understanding about that, since ideas themselves are not copyrighted. They are fair game on the Internet. It feels so cool when a student surpasses his teacher—sheer joy, in fact!
It's unnecessary to sermonize about the above. Let those to whom it may concern and “who have ears to hear,” as Jesus put it, take a cue from my writer-friend Alan, as we give him a SHOUT-OUT!
P.S. I must add that I see Alan’s first book taking shape! It might be a collection of “the best of” his blog posts—the nearly painless way of writing a book. It worked well with two of my recently published books: Selah Reflections:Press the Pause Button and Sage Brushings:Painting with Words, and several of my other previously published books. I have been a blogger for over ten years which represents 877 posts—lots of material!