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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

A good word for hope

September! For many, September marks the beginning of a new academic year or a new internship adventure. It is a time of some trepidation and a time of great excitement and hope.

Hope. Hope is one of those words that can be understood in so many ways. Some confuse it with wishful thinking. But for a Christian, hope is the response to God’s promises in Jesus Christ. Hope is our response to a God who loves us, wants us to experience deep and abundant life and claims us as beloved children. Hope is based, not on wishful thinking or whimsical wants, but on the abiding promises of our God.

For more on this subject, I recommend Agents of Hope by Donald Capps (Fortress Press, 1995). (If you are not into psychology, you can slide over parts of it!) The book begins with these words: “My purpose in this book is to explore the role that pastors play as the agents of hope. In my view, what pastors have uniquely to give others is hope. Where other professionals may offer hope as a byproduct of what they do, the offer of hope is central to what pastors do. Oftentimes, it is all that they can offer. To be a pastor is to be a provider or agent of hope.”

I appreciated the whole book, but found the final three chapters especially helpful:

  • Chapter 5: The Three Major Threats to Hope (despair, apathy and shame).
  •  Chapter 6: The Three Major Allies of Hope (trust, patience and modesty).
  •  Chapter 7: Hope and the Reframing of Time (envisioning the future and re-visioning the past). These are not self-evident; if you want to know more, you will have to read the book.

I won’t try to summarize the book; I wouldn’t do it justice. But I would encourage you to check it out, and reflect on what it means for you, as a Christian, to hope; and for you, as a pastor, to live as an agent of hope.

Blessings on your September; may it be filled with a deep hope and may that hope be a hallmark of your life and ministry.

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