Peterson, The Pastor

As far as pastoring goes, I don’t know of another author who has wrestled with this vocation more (and better), and from within, than Eugen Peterson. He’s a church planter, an author of books and he did translation/paraphrasing work on The Message, a modern day language version of the Bible. He’s been a big influence on so many.

So, this book by Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir was given to me as a gift, and it was an amazing gift. Peterson is gifted similarly but differently than I. He’s well thinking, yet primarily priestly. I love to be theological, yet I’m primarily prophetic. Peterson manages to share his struggle with being a pastor right in the contexts of his life and his relationships. He opens his life to the reader and brings us into the journey of his life.

I’m not sure how people who aren’t pastors would dig it, but pastors would all grow from this book. It’s simple and easy to read, yet profound and asks deep questions of calling, motivation, values and direction.

Here’s some killer quotes:

  • p.4, “The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent.”
  • p.10, “My father boasted to his friends that we even had running water: ‘Eugene runs down to the lake with a bucket, and runs back up the hill with the water.’ “
  • p. 16, “…the most effective strategy for change, for revolution – at least on the large scale that the kingdom of God involves – comes from a minority working from the margins.”
  • p.29, “No need for hurry if you’re confident in who you are.”
  • p.33, “The way we learn something is more influential than the something that we learn. No content comes into our lives free-floating: it is always embedded in a form of some kind.”
  • p.90, “I realized that for most of my life the people I had been living with and who had taught me had been primarily interested in getting the truth of the gospel and the Bible right, explaining it and defending it…Barth didn’t have much interest in that. He was a witness (a favorite word of his). He was calling attention to the lived quality of the Christian life, the narrative of the Bible, the good news of the gospel. Listening to God as God reveals himself in Christ and the Bible and preaching.”
  • p.254, “But there is a problem here: a program is an abstraction and inherently nonpersonal. A program defines people in terms of what they do, not who they are. The more program, the less person. Church was understood not in terms of personal relationships and a personal God but in terms of ‘getting things done’. This struck me as violation of the inherent personal dignity of souls.”
  • p.258, “A way of worship that was nonmanipulative. A way of community that was nonprogrammatic. One of the things I relished about being a pastor was being immersed in these ambiguities, the not being in control that allowed for the slow emergence of insights and resolve that developed into confessions of faith, and the unplanned, spontaneous attentiveness ‘one another’ that over the years became a culture of hospitality.”
  • p.310, quoting a Canadian, “Welcome to godless Canada, this godforsaken desert.”
  • p.313, “By this time we were used to godless and godforsaken, to death and deserts. Jan and I had been living among the godless in godforsaken deserts all our lives under the patronage of Pastor John of Patmos. Barth again: ‘only where graves are is there resurrection.’ We rather like the company.”

2 thoughts on “Peterson, The Pastor

  1. Eugene Peterson has always impressed me, although I know him only through his writing, through close friends who had him as their teacher at Regents, and through his two sons – Eric and Leif. Eric, who is now a pastor himself, was a student at Whitworth while I worked there and we shared some adventures…. including hopping a freight train to Whitefish MT and back!


    • Greg…I think hopping trains is one of those rites of passage the adventurous ones accomplish on their way to the otherwise hum-drum life of the work-a-day adult. Glad you succeeded and, I presume, kept all your toes. I wonder if Eugene ever did this… just to keep up with his son… 🙂 I’ll bet he would have enjoyed it.


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