5 Stars Out Of 5
A memoir one pastor to another
April 27, 2011
I picked up this book because I saw Eugene Peterson speak at the Catalyst Conference; and being at the very beginning of my own pastoral career, I knew I could do well with having some outside voices speak into my situation.
And you could argue that Eugene is Presbyterian and I am not, that he grew up in a different culture and generation than I did and that the world of ministry looks very different today: all true. But, I don't know if that means that the role that the pastor plays is any different - and I think Eugene would agree.
The Pastor is not so much a book as it is a story, what I mean is_ it's a journey of how Eugene planted a church, grew a congregation, built a sanctuary and traveled through the "badlands" of ministry.
And as a memoir goes, it had all of the things I was hoping for, funny stories about growing up and being a pastor, how he met his wife, the journey of starting and growing a church, some of his weekly practices, good books he recommends, and some really great biblical application.
But to read this book is really to read Eugene's story, so it wouldn't be right for me to tell it here, but there are a few of the things that resonated with my own story:
First, Eugene talks about the role of pastor being a vocation and not a "job." I've said it a million times, the job of being a pastor is one of the weirdest careers of all time. From the outside it doesn't look like any other nine to five on the planet. But Eugene would rather you think of it as a vocation. With a job, you can walk away from it, you can separate your work life from your home life, and certainly Eugene talks about having a Sabbath rest and "getting away" now and then - but a vocation is a calling - it's a lifestyle of living with a community of people. How does one do that?
Second, Eugene talks about being a "contemplative pastor" and not a "competitive pastor."
What's the difference?
A competitive pastor is always looking to the next project, and is constantly "measuring up" their church activity and the spiritual growth of its members. A competitive pastor has an agenda; has goals and is pushing their way towards those goals. But in the end, these are still people's lives_ and while we (as pastors) might feel called to "change people" and perhaps feel like a failure if people don't rise to the occasion, tithe more, become prayer warriors, volunteer, help, join in, memorize, or in any other way mature into the mile marker we have set for them_ we have to be able to live comfortably within the space God calls us to.
A contemplative pastor is a pastor who is able to be with people "without having an agenda for them, a pastor who is able to accept people just as they (are) and guide them gently and patiently into a mature life with Christ but not (getting) in the way, (by letting) the Holy Spirit do the guiding." page 211
And the life of being a pastor is finding the balance of merging these two things together - you and the congregation. Eugene talks about how this merging sometimes breaks. "I had been shifting from being a pastor dealing with God in people's lives to treating them as persons dealing with problems in their lives. I was not being their pastor. I could have helped and still been their pastor. But by reducing them to problems to be fixed, I omitted the biggest thing of all in their lives, God and their souls, and the biggest thing in my life, my vocation as pastor_ I was trading in the complexities of spiritual growth in congregation for the reduced dimensions of addressing a problem that could be named and understood." page 140
Everyone has their own idea of what a pastor should be, but rather than listen to the congregation define the "job," Eugene embarks on listening to scripture define the "calling." How does worship and work come together? How is a pastor fulfilling his biblical calling on a typical Tuesday?
This is a wonderful book and a helpful resource for the new, the tired, the experienced and the retired. I highly recommend it.