The Pastor

I recently finished (re)reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. It was my second reading (at least). But I especially enjoyed the reading this time around because it served to facilitate weekly discussions with two lovely young people who were doing paid internships with H2O Kent this semester. Many people know Peterson (in some cases, without knowing that they know!) through his translation of the Bible that’s come to be known as The Message. And I’ve observed that people usually have pretty strong opinions — either for or against —The Message because, well, Christians can be funny like that with Bible translations. Still, no matter what one’s feelings about The Message might be, I think it’s harder to dislike Peterson as a person. Or as a storyteller in The Pastor.

Peterson has a way with words. His writing really captures my heart. He sees the transcendent in the mundane. He sees the universal in the specific. And there’s this element of humility and gentleness to the way that he communicates. I guess you could say it’s pastoral (probably a good move for a book called The Pastor). I might also say that Peteron’s writing strikes me as Spirit-filled, modeled closely after the Great Shepherd, Jesus.

My favorite thing about The Pastor is its musings on the question of vocation. This is why I chose book for Intern Management Meetings this semester. Naturally, Peterson looks at the issue of vocation, or calling, from the perspective of his own story. But he’s not single-minded about his perspective. In fact, he points to many others as key indicators of how God guided him and directed him through decades of pastoral ministry. His mother… African students… Catholic nuns… Hippies… Atheists… Contractors… And he shows the way that God weaves together multiple personal narratives to create a grander, more beautiful communal narrative.

I like the way that Peterson thinks about Sabbath rest. He eloquently captures many of my own thoughts for why running and hiking feel like such serious spiritual disciplines. His views on the church and pastoral ministry flow from these understandings about rest. Working from a place of rest, rather than resting from a place of work. In some ways, the things that Peterson suggests seem very radical. Almost revolutionary. In other ways, the things that Peterson suggests seem as basic and elemental as possible. This might be one of my favorite ministry spaces, personally, so I found myself nodding my head and using my highlighter a lot while reading through the book.

Towards the end of the book, I appreciated the glimpse into how The Message came into being. It happened surprisingly late in Peterson’s career. And it came into being as a very direct outgrowth of his pastoral ministry. It fits many of Peterson’s other convictions and character qualities. And if more people understood the backstory to The Message, I think there would be less complaint or controversy about it.

I’m really glad that I got to read The Pastor again this semester. I’m glad that Jared and Meaghan got to read it, too. If they’re going to become full-time campus missionaries, the lessons from this book will serve them well for years to come.

This entry was posted in Church, Culture, God, H2O Kent, Health, Introspection, Ministry, Prayer, Recommendations, Recommended Reading, The Bible. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.