Review: Eugene Peterson's "The Pastor"

What I remember best about both of my grandfathers is their complete and utter sense of self.

This is who I am. I don't care what other people want me to be. This is me. Deal.

I've always loved Eugene Peterson for having a sanctified version of this sensibility - this is the role, the life, the revelation God has given me regarding ministry and spirituality. The level of simple challenge and insistence on God's creative and redemptive activity in each of his books is quietly comforting in a sea of social media spirituality.

I expected nothing else when I cracked his memoir, The Pastor. Peterson dives into the formation of not only his own soul but that of the church he faithfully served for 30 years. From the inner battles with a pastoral vocation to the definition of the vocation he finally succumbed to, the book is filled with that simple goodness of being challenged to get to the root of what it is that a pastor should be doing and embodying within a community.

The phrase that stuck with me, and actually alludes to the book's most consistent echo is this: "these people in this place." So much of contemporary ministry is built on a virtual platform of national recognition or trend chasing that is completely and utterly disconnected from the "right here, right now" each of us face when we look at the people who we are engaged with on a week to week basis.

People we pray with in hospitals. People we counsel to stay married, get married, etc. People we guide through parenting or career change.

Pastoral ministry, as it bubbles up from Peterson's beautiful history and prose, is the embedding of oneself in the activity of the Kingdom of God driven by the Gospel but pointed toward a particular people and a particular place.

I was challenged as I had recently found myself thinking of ministry largely as a "position" rather than an "orientation" of life. Did I pastor as my job or was I a pastor because it was the root cry of my soul to see people rescued and delivered from hopelessness and into the arms of Jesus?

The book is a great read, including one of the greatest conversion stories in history as a young Peterson literally beats a bully into accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior.

I highly recommend this read to anyone wanting to gain more insight into the organic fabric of a pastor's life and I definitely recommend it for anyone who is considering accepting any kind of pastoral role in any church anywhere.

Thank you, Eugene, for being a pastor to pastors.