Eugene H. Peterson’s New Message

I found this excerpt in the Read the Spirit blog.  I can’t wait to read Eugene H. Peterson’s new book on the vocation of pastor.  I love what he says in this passage!

EXCERPT OF “THE PASTOR: A MEMOIR”

NEW FROM EUGENE H. PETERSON

North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.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. We are a generation that feels as if it is having to start out from scratch to figure out a way to represent and nurture this richly nuanced and all-involving life of Christ in a country that “knew not Joseph.”

I love being an American. I love this place in which I have been placed—its language, its history its energy. But I don’t love “the American way,” its culture and values. I don’t love the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. I don’t love the dehumanizing ways that turn men, women and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. I don’t love the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies. The cultural conditions in which I am immersed require, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from those cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus. I wanted my life, both my personal and working life, to be shaped by God and the scriptures and prayer.

In the process of realizing my vocational identity as pastor, I couldn’t help observing that there was a great deal of confusion and dissatisfaction all around me with pastoral identity. Many pastors, disappointed or disillusioned with their congregations, defect after a few years and find more congenial work. And many congregations, disappointed or disillusioned with their pastors, dismiss them and look for pastors more to their liking. In the 50 years that I have lived the vocation of pastor, these defections and dismissals have reached epidemic proportions in every branch and form of the church.

I wonder if at the root of the defection is a cultural assumption that all leaders are people who “get things done,” and “make things happen.” That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into our awareness form the culture—politicians, businessmen, advertisers, publicists, celebrities and athletes. But while being a pastor certainly has some of those components, the pervasive element in our 2,000-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God—this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.”

I want to give witness to this way of understanding pastor, a way that can’t be measured or counted, and often isn’t even noticed. I didn’t notice for a long time. I would like to provide dignity to this essentially modest and often obscure way of life in the kingdom of God. Along the way, I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life: the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives—these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful.

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