The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Book and Article Reviews, Pastoral Ministry
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I really enjoyed reading this book.  More than that though, it was challening reading Peterson’s understanding of pastoral ministry.  I found myself wrestling with the tensions that he describes.  How do we fulfill our vocational calling while treating those we minister to with Gospel dignity.  That is a difficult tightrope to walk at times.

I especially like the distinction that Peterson makes in outling pastoral vocation as unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic.  Unbusy indicates that pastors are not bogged down by “running” a church.  Although administration is part and parcel of our “job” as pastors, that is not what we are called to “be.”  Being unbusy means that we are unrushed.  It is not a “works-based” righteousness.  It is important that we embody that in our ministry.  It is about being saturated in prayer and Scripture.  The Spirit, not the calendar, directs our lives.

We are not called to be important (we usually show our importance by how much stuff we do).  It is a vanity that says the Church cannot survive without my effort.  Being unbusy is a resting in God’s work in the Church and that we are called to “be” not “do.”

Furthermore, we are called to be subversive.  We oppose the culture and what it deems we are to be as pastors and as people.  It means that the kingdom of self is replaced by the Kingdom of God in our lives and in the lives of our congregations.  It is looking for the Kingdom that is even now burgeoning in our lives.  And, it is allowing our wills to be subsumed by that Kingdom so that we are partners with God’s re-creational work in the world.

Finally, pastors are apocalyptic.  This is not end-of-the-world proclamations aimed at our people.  Rather, the apocalyptic pastor is one who prays, perseveres, and uses language poetically (as a “maker”).  We are truth tellers that are shaped by the Word and employ words to shape the world.  It is a confidence that God’s work in the world is already happening and will come to fruition and completion in the fullness of time.


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