This week was a big week for me. I successfully defended my dissertation. I am now “The Reverend Doctor Jordan Rimmer.” This is the culmination of a lot of work.
I never cared about getting a doctor of ministry. I really wanted to learn, especially from someone who I thought could challenge and push me. Len Sweet was that person, and I have learned so much. I also loved that I got to research and write about things I wanted to study.People ask me about what my dissertation was about. I normally just say it is about how pastors can think about their ministry through story. In reality, it was more than that. I looked at the identity problems that pastors have. It is hard to know who a pastor is and what a pastor should do. This ambiguity contributes to stress and burnout among pastors, which is having a negative impact on pastors, their families, and their churches.
Part of that problem is a problem of metaphor. The old metaphors like prophet or shepherd don’t connect with us anymore. New metaphors like counselor or leader/CEO don’t fit the tradition. We need new metaphors for pastors that are faithful to the tradition and fruitful in the world today.
My argument is that story can be that new metaphor or paradigm. People think in stories. We learn through stories. We heal through stories. By learning about how stories work, pastors can see new fruit in their ministry. More importantly, story provides a way for the seemingly disjointed work of ministry to feel more coherent. We are always finding stories, tending to stories, and weaving God’s story in the lives of others.
Part of my dissertation also included writing a book proposal and the first 5 chapters of a book called The Story Pastor. I am continuing to write this book, as well as developing other books and courses around the material.
This journey to a doctor of ministry degree has been a great story, and I, like any protagonist in a story, have had to change and grow along the way. I am thankful for that opportunity. I am also thankful to my family who supported me, as well as friends, classmates, and my church who kept me going. I also thank God who has been leading and teaching me all along.
I will continue to answer to “Jordan,” but I will also answer to “Rev-Doc.” I have been called Dr. J this week and I am not sure how I feel about that one.
More than anything else, I have learned on this adventure to keep at it, work a little every day, and don’t be overwhelmed by how huge the task is. Anything you want to write can only happen one word at a time. Anything you want to accomplish can only be done one step at a time. Keep walking.