One of my favorite modern Protestant writers is Eugene H. Peterson. I’ve never met Eugene, though I’ve spoken to him on the telephone. I invited him to participate in a writing project and he phoned me to decline. He was the only person, in a long list of invited contributors, who did that. (Some didn't bother to even respond in writing.) I am still impressed. He owed me nothing but a polite “turn down” but he wanted to encourage me by telling me my goals were worthy but he could not help me. He was apologetic and gracious. It made an impression.
A number of friends know Eugene and some had him as a teacher at Regent College in Vancouver. They have shared numerous stories with me about this senior statesman of the faith. Peterson is one of those guys who makes me listen when he speaks, even though I do not always agree with him. (But then who do I always agree with anyway and who really cares?)
I thus eagerly awaited the newest Peterson book, The Pastor: A Memoir (Harper One, 2011). When my friend Mark Elfstrand, of Moody Radio (WMBI, Chicago), gave me a copy at lunch last week I was overjoyed. I began reading almost immediately. I am not disappointed.
In the introduction Peterson writes of his disdain for clericalism. I share that response deeply. “Somewhere along the way while growing up I developed a rather severe case of anticlericalism. I had little liking for professionalism in matters of religion. If I detected a whiff of pomposity, I walked away” (2).
But Peterson goes on to tell how people began to call him Pastor, and then the children called him “Pastor Pete.” He admits he loved it. He said, “Pastor sounded more relational than functional, more affectionate than authoritarian” (2). I profoundly agree. I loved being called “Pastor John.” Some of my former congregants still call me “Pastor John” and I admit I love it. I care not for titles like “Reverend” or “Doctor.” I’m not even enamored with “Professor” as such. But I love “Pastor.”
Peterson’s book is right from the heart. He writes about being a pastor and about the church and real ministry. He is human, insightful and refreshingly honest. This is a book every pastor ought to read. In fact, those who love pastors would get a great deal from it too. Why not read it and pass it on to your pastor. He, or she, would likely thank you with great love.
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I really strongly agree. This is a book all pastors would benefit from. I have already read it twice and given away several copies.
I think it would be very beneficial for pastoral search committees to read it as part of their preparation in denominations that use that method.
One of the benefits that he had was starting the church. I have seen too many pastors that had the right heart and focus as a pastor that still were fired because there were a few in the church that had the wrong understanding of the role of the pastor.
I also loved this book. I agree that every pastor and church planter ought to read it. It will profoundly change the way that you view the church.
I too have never met Eugene, but very few people have influenced me as much as he has. As a college senior, back in the early 80s, a friend encouraged me to read A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. My life–and my vocation as a pastor–have been shaped by that moment.
Thanks, John, for your comments on the memoir, which I’m currently reading. With this book and with Stanley Hauerwas’ Hannah’s Child, it’s been a good year for the genre!