When does working on books as a hobby become a job… a ministry… a vocation…. or maybe a calling? Back in 2012, I finished my doctoral dissertation on doing medical missions here in the Philippines. I decided that I wanted to turn the dissertation into a book. Before that, I had started working on a couple of books. One was based on missions strategy. Another one was on wholistic ministry. A third one I had started working on was on the use of stories in theology. So the first two books I finished were:
Principles and Practices for Healthy Christian Medical Missions: Seeking the Church’s Role for Effective Community Outreach in the Philippines and Beyond.
Theo-storying: Reflections on God, Narrative, and Culture.
Then I was teaching some classes here at the seminary. Most of the students have limited financial resources, and I struggled in finding books that were available here that really covered the topics I commonly taught in a way that was appropriate to my students. So I started writing books to work with missions courses I taught. These were:
Ministry in Diversity: Applied Cultural Anthropology in a Multicultural World
Dialogue in Diversity: Christians in Conversation with a Multi-faith World
My wife supervises Clinical Pastoral Education, and I assist with some pastoral care courses, so we co-wrote a couple of books:
The Art of Pastoral Care
Dynamics in Pastoral Counseling and Training
All of a sudden, and strangely I did not realize it until 2 weeks ago, I had written 6 books. Now, truthfully, only one of those books (my first) had gone through a formal review and editing process, and only one other one (my second) had gone through a partial review. Frankly, a person can just pump out book after book if one chooses to self-publish. That is not the point here… but I realized that in 7 years I had published 6 books. That does not include the other two books I had mentioned before that I had partly finished but decided not to publish, and another one (on Missions Theology) that I had developed for a class, but ultimately decided to scrap.
But then a friend of mine came to me. He was interested in publishing his dissertation. It is on pastoral care response for alcoholism in the Philippine armed forces. So I helped him with that.
Then I thought that since I am doing this sort of thing, why don’t I clean up and publish my dad’s local history book (on the tiny community of Ivory, NY). That was actually tougher than you would think since I had to encode the whole thing from typewritten pages.
Then another acquaintance of mine wanted me to help with her book. She is a medical doctor and a Christian minister and wanted to share her experiences working with local and international organizations (both religious and secular). So I helped some with that and will be done soon.
Then one of my colleagues asked for help with his book on the role of theology for pastors. I assisted with that, and I look forward to when that is finished.
Then one of my students asked me to help with two books he has written. One on salvation, and one on evangelizing Muslims. I have finished one of these and am in the middle of the other one.
This has gotten me thinking. This is a LOT of work on books. I emphasize that I am untrained in formal editing, formatting grammar, and style. In other words, I am very much an amateur. And that is okay when it is a hobby. But after 6 completed books, and helping others with another 6 books, at what point should I stop thinking of it as a hobby and start thinking of it as a job… or perhaps a ministry. Because if it is a job, then perhaps I need to learn how to be good at it.
Looking back, I do see where I have made some mistakes not only in my books but in others. Mistakes are inevitable… but that “inevitableness” should not be used as an excuse to do a sloppy job.
The problem is that if I seek to embrace a professional role, I may be taking on more responsibility than I wish. Since it is a ministry, I do it for free, and emphasizing my role as a helpful amateur is reasonable, and establishes expectations that I would frankly prefer. Yet, I still want to do a good job. I don’t necessarily want to comfort myself with the thought that “I did a poor job, but at least my work was free.”
My books can be found online at Amazon.com. You can get there by Clicking Here.