Ortberg: After being a pastor. I could have been sued for malpractice. Stagnation because I think that’s just part of life. Anytime you feel like you are not making progress, growing, there’s a dissatisfaction built into that.


Crabb: But what made you aware of that?


Ortberg: You know [it was triggered] when someone I was pastoring mentioned that prayer was always a struggle for him.


Crabb: And your job was to instruct him into the kind of prayer life that you had.


Ortberg: And I can remember writing to him about a quote from C. S. Lewis, from Letters to Malcolm, about how maybe the prayers that mean the most to God are the ones we offer when we are feeling dry. So I wrote about that, but even as I wrote it, I thought there has to be something more than dryness. And there was a long period for me of–I think it was just being willing to acknowledge the true state of my soul. And this was very difficult because of the way I was brought up and the current job I had. Being a prodigal son wasn’t really an option. And I was a pastor.


Crabb: Plus your [making a ] living was dependent [on your role ].


Ortberg: My paycheck was connected to it, all kinds of stuff. So for a long time, it was very much a private thing. Internal sadness.


Willard: You know, I can remember as a young pastor how dissatisfied I was because I knew that much more was supposed to be happening under my ministry. That was outward directed [unlike what you are describing]. I wasn’t very much aware of myself. Being Baptist, [I thought ] the main thing was winning souls. Getting converts. That was the top. And I just knew I was grinding it out. There was no flow, no lifegiving freshness to it. So I get another convert. The verse that hounded me was the verse in Matthew where Jesus says you make one convert and make him twice the child of hell as you are.

Crabb: That’s a blast-you approach, isn’t it?


Ortberg: That’s a life-verse for a lot of people.

What I realized was that just the effort, and being clever, and not growing, but finding devices for getting results [was a trap I had fallen into ].

Crabb: Maneuvering, manipulating, strategizing...all for a good cause.

Ortberg: Another one of those things, at least for me, was trying to achieve something. Achievement was always important and partly a way of evading this gnawing internal sense of dissatisfaction. If something went well, if a talk went well, there would be bursts attached to that...