Scharen, Christian Batalden. Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2008.
Christian Scharen is assistant professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN., His main research and teaching interests center on worship and practical theology. A leading scholar working at the intersection of ethnography and theology, he lectures and writes in the areas of ministry, worship, ethics, ecclesiology, and popular culture. Scharen is Co-Director of Luther’s Learning Pastoral Imagination Project, an ecumenical national study of ministry.
Prior to joining the faculty at Luther Seminary, he was Director of the Faith as a Way of Life Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and Assistant Professor of Congregational Studies and Practical Theology (Adjunct) at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT (2004-2008). He earned a doctorate in Religion from Emory University (2001). He received an M.A. in Religion and Society from the Graduate Theological Union (1995) and an M.Div. from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA. (1996).
Scharen is the spokesperson for the Faith as a Way of Life Project at Yale Divinity School, instigated by Miroslav Volf. This project consisted of a group of professional and lay ministers that met together twice a year for three years to discuss faith in action in everyday life and the implications this has on the role of Pastoral leadership. Scharen’s book takes the findings of this project, adds his own perspective, and presents it to the reader in a clear, readable, and practical way.
The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides the theological frame for the conversation. Here Scharen highlights two major obstacles to faith as a way of life in the modern Western—particularly United States—context. The first is the fragmentation of life, or, as he puts it, “life, compartmentalized.” Radical individualism has led member of our society to see their lives as the constant movement between divergent spheres in which they play as autonomous agents. These spheres are: kinship, economy, politics, and aesthetics. The second major obstacle is the derivative of the first. It is the pursuit of self-fulfillment, or, as he puts it, “self-maximized.” This individualistic self-maximation can be expressed in one of two ways. One can be the manager of a utilitarian individualism, trying to get the most out of life as possible by managing time and resources for maximum return. One can alternatively be the therapist and seek inner, emotional fulfillment through the pursuit of expressive individualism. Both expressions lead the individual into deeper levels of isolation and the difficulty of forming meaningful community as prescribed by Gospel.
Part Two delves into these four spheres more specifically. Scharen devotes an entire chapter to each sphere and provides concrete examples of how pastoral leadership sought to lead the congregation out of the culturally dominant individualism and into the practice of faith as a way of life that permeates all spheres.
Part Three seeks to summarize the arguments and propose of practical mindset and approach for pastoral leadership. First, the church must understand itself to be the gathered and sent community of God. Worship is not an event that is attended. The church is not a conglomerate of individuals consuming religious goods. It is a body, called by God, gathered around Word and Sacrament, and sent into the world as witness to God’s reign in the Way of Jesus. Pastoral leaders should see themselves as spiritual directors that walk among the people, calling them to the way of Jesus, providing new opportunities to practice community engagement in the four spheres of modern life, and equipping the congregation to reflect theologically on their situations.
Scharen recommends the Shalem Institute as an example of spiritual direction in community.