John Roberto ties his contribution to Christian formation to his longevity in the field. He describes his ministry as coming from an “acorn calling,” not referring to the small seed itself, but to its promise of life that begins small, sending out roots to support growth extending over a lifetime. He has been faithful to that call and his relationship to Christ for over 40 years. “I can’t imagine my life without it,” he said.
Early in his ministry, a mentor helped him discover that he was not going to change the church. “You must focus on yourmission and contribution,” Roberto said, quoting his mentor. “That will drive you. This is the test that you are doing what God has called you to do.”
Roberto was one of the Center of the Ministry of Teaching’s first collaborators in exploring and creating an eFormation learning community. He sees his role as a catalyst, someone who can pave the way for people to visualize the possibilities of using technology in ministry. The mission and message remain the same, he said, but the use of different means opens an array of possibilities for knowing Jesus.
A young college intern at the first eFormation conference saw another side of Roberto that his colleagues at the CMT came to cherish. He is simply kind and generous. He opens doors for others, providing opportunities for them to focus on their missions and contributions.
Before his work with eFormation, Roberto was designing networks and dreaming of the future. “It should be in our nature to network,” he said, “but we don’t.” Instead of painting a broad picture to capture the possibilities for Christian formation, Roberto looks for ways to create “bright spots.” He believes that people will change when they connect their own experience to places where there is energy. From that energy comes practices that are sustainable and exchangeable.
Helping people make those connections led Roberto to a central question in his ministry: “How do we comprehensively attend to the diverse needs of people in the 21stCentury?” The church is “blessed” with new technologies, he says, “but how does that serve the Gospel? How does that serve us?” Roberto’s questioning heart returns again and again to his passion for the Gospel message, rooted in his lifetime call to visualize, create, and disseminate Christian formation for diverse people of all ages.
Seeing people thrive in their ministry has brought him his greatest joy. He sees himself as the catalyst that doesn’t have all the answers, but is the support that wraps its arms around people with the message “you can go do this.” The ministry that grew from an “acorn calling” reminds us through Roberto that “it is never about you, but about the mission that you do.”
This article first appeared in Episcopal Teacher: Winter 2019 Special Issue, page 15