Friday, May 08, 2009

Eugene Peterson on Pastoral Ministry

I love reading Eugene Peterson. I find him hugely helpful for my own self-reflection as a minister. Right now, I'm reading Under the Unpredictable Plant, which focuses on vocational holiness and which is classic Peterson. Because I'm enjoying him again, I decided to do a bit of a google search. I ran across this excellent interview and resonated with this section:

How did you become a pastor?

I think I was attracted to the intense relational and personal quality of this life. At the time I decided to become a pastor, I was assistant professor at a seminary. I loved the teaching, but when I compared it with what I was doing as an associate pastor, there was no comparison. It was the difference between being a coach in the locker room, working out plays on the chalkboard, and being one of the players on the field. I wanted to be one of the players on the field, playing my part as the life of Christ was becoming incarnate again in my community.

That’s interesting, because if there’s one life that many pastors idealize, it’s the academic life.

That’s strange, isn’t it? When people say, "I don’t want to be a pastor, I want to be a professor," I say, "Well, the best place to be a teacher is in a congregation." Everything I taught during my tenure at Regent College was first developed and taught in my congregation. At Regent, of course, I embellished it. I put in footnotes. But the motivation of the people in the classroom was different from those in the congregational setting: they were looking for a degree, whereas in the congregation, people are looking for how to live the next day.


Richard in Albany said...

The words of Dr. Peterson ring true! I believe that the mordern pastor has lost his passion for people. When I go through a hard time with someoneI am asked how do you do this! I often reply jokely " because they paid me the big bucks!" NO Its because of the love that Christ has put in my heart for people. In this day and age of the corporate CEO pastor men are more it to running organitions than building discples for Jesus.I see this in some of the men that come through Presbytery. Some have an ivy tower view of the pastor. I knew one man who came to a church and his office had a private back door. No one ever saw him. The only time someone knew he was in the building was if he told his office asst. (He lasted 13 months)We as pastors need to be in the field! I love to study and don't get me wrong we need to do right for our teaching times. The applications to my sermon needs to be mirrored in my life as I live among the people.
As I live their lives with them! We need to give the next group of young pastors that same passion for people! Sorry about the rant but is Monday morning after Prsbytery. By the way we are eating onions, brocoli and potatoes out of the garden! Next week green beans! Have a great week. See you at GA!
Richard in Albany

Sean Michael Lucas said...

I'm so jealous of your garden, Richard! We were able to buy a house this past weekend in H'burg, but it doesn't look like there will be much room for a garden (the pool takes up most of the yard-small yard; and the kids will like the pool more than the garden).

I agree with what you say about the importance of a pastor loving and living among his people. My office at H'burg has a door like you describe; but I intend to block it with a chair so that it is clear that I come in by the secretaries and socialize with the other staff. That's part of my pastoral care, how I care for the staff. Anyway, I'm with you, brother! Hope to see you at GA! sml

Frances Alston said...

I am greatly encouraged that you have the desire to be "among the people". As a congregation - and I think I can speak for most of us - we have desperately needed to be loved and...well, pastored, as opposed to "preached at." You can rest assured that the love will be returned in full measure. Hopefully, you and Sara have already felt that!

Frances Alston said...

I didn't mean to imply that Knox and Norman "preached at" us! Far from it!! But as hard as they tried and as well as they led us in the interim, they were not our true undershepard. So....welcome from your flock!!