How will you measure “success” as a pastor? This question was posed to me by Jim Lapp in my pastoral credentialing interview sixteen years ago. It was a poignant, thought-provoking question – one that I’ve continued to reflect on numerous times since then.
In reading James Lapp’s recent memoir, Remember Who You Are: Reflections on Identity, Leadership, and Faith, this question, again, bubbled to the surface for me. Lapp’s story gives testimony to several ingredients of “success” in life, as well as pastoral ministry, including:
- Taking “Long-View” of Christian Faith – Lapp looks back in reflecting on the numerous influences that have helped to shape his Christian faith, and sense of call to pastoral ministry – including his family-of-origin, church community, schools, and life experiences. Lapp also looks forward in expressing his hope that faith in Christ continues to shape and guide future generations.
- Wisdom – The depth of Lapp’s wisdom and insight is evident throughout the book in the way he offers keen reflections on marriage, pastoral ministry and identity, leadership, conflict, change, grief, etc. I particularly appreciated his chapter, “Saving the Mennonite Church” – wise words for us, today!
- Humility – While Lapp has held various significant roles in the Mennonite Church, he describes these leadership positions in a spirit of humility. I also appreciate his humility in his willingness to honestly admit mistakes and name regrets. He devotes three chapters under the title, “Faux Pas.” Lapp’s humility is evident, as well, in how he highlights ways that his faith has grown and evolved over the years. In the chapter, “Theological Trajectories,” he helpfully articulates eight themes where he’s experienced movement in his faith perspectives.
- Humor – While this would not be the first word I’d use to describe Lapp, the book gives witness to his sense of humor, and “playful spirit.” From childhood pranks (e.g. rubbing alcohol in a water pistol with matches), to disguising as an FBI officer in a phone call with his father, to “overlaps,” to his “flattop rebellion” .. there are lots of entertaining stories in this book!
- Gratitude – There is an authentic spirit of gratitude to God for the gift of life and all that life offers throughout the book. In fact, many of the chapters end with prayers highlighting the words, “Thanks be to God for…”
- Passion for Justice – Lapp articulates this passion in a number of areas, generously giving credit to ways that his family members have helped to fuel these passions in him.
- Well-Rounded Life – I learned of the vast-array of interests Lapp has, including: cooking and baking, traveling (e.g. a fascinating trip around the world), walking faithfully and briskly every day, biking, singing, and paragliding with his granddaughter when Lapp turned 70!
- Love God/Love Others – Undergirding the broad sweep of this book is Lapp’s deep love for God, his family, friends, the church, and God’s creation. I found the chapters, “A Tribute to Nancy,” and “Falling in Love Again!” to be particularly heartfelt and moving.
I am grateful to Jim Lapp for sharing the gift of these engaging, humorous, honest, and insightful reflections – giving testimony, in a spirit of grace and humility, to what “success” truly looks like in pastoral ministry and life!
Editor’s Note: To purchase a copy of Lapp’s memoir, Remember Who You Are, send a check (payable to Jim Lapp) for $18 ($15 plus $3 for mailing) with your mailing address to Jim Lapp, 1001 East Oregon Road, Lititz, PA 17543. Orders or questions can be directed to Mim Book at firstname.lastname@example.org.