For some reason, it took me about eighteen months to get through The Pastor by Eugene Peterson. It probably had something to do with the fact that in that time frame we moved from Colorado to Wisconsin, helped plant a new church, I finished my M.A. in Theological Studies, and my wife and I had a baby (who spent 10 days in the NICU). It was a very busy season of life!
However, I loved it and I’m glad I took my time getting through it. This is a great book from a pastor to pastors. I love that Peterson is not your typical megachurch pastor/author. For most of his ministry, Peterson has led a church with less than 500 people. I’ve heard that something like 97% of all churches in America have less than 500 people, so Peterson can relate to most pastors.
Three things I learned from this book:
1.) What Being a Pastor is all About
Peterson does a great job reminding us what its all about: loving God and loving people. As a pastor, we ultimately answer to God; not our denomination, our board, or our congregation. He also reminds us that we as pastors are called to shepherd our flock. That’s our primary responsibility. We aren’t preachers, or authors, or graphic designers, or programmers, or administrators. We are shepherds caring for the flock that Jesus our Great Shepherd has entrusted to us.
2.) Embrace the Journey
There’s a quote on the front of the book: Every step an arrival. I love that. God calls us to follow him. And through us following him, we are changed and we become more like his Son. Its so easy to look for the next thing. Peterson reminds us that every step on the journey is an arrival. Every step, we are where he wants us to be. Sometimes that means we are in the “badlands” and sometimes we are in the beautiful, wild mountains where we feel free and alive.
3.) Slow Down
I have tried to keep a Sabbath day. I really have! But I have failed pretty badly these past 10 years or so of pastoral ministry. Peterson shares his journey of struggling with the same thing and then finally surrendering to the rhythm that God created us to dance to. He and his wife set aside Mondays as their Sabbath. It was a day to pray and play. Pray and play. I like that. Peterson encourages pastors to have a day where you aren’t productive. A day where you reconnect with God through conversation and movement. Hiking in the woods and listening to your Father. Playing Frisbee with your wife. Enjoying a good meal. A day to re-charge and refuel.
If you are a pastor or if you feel like God is calling you into full time professional ministry, I would strongly encourage you to read this book. And take your time getting through it. Remember- Every step an arrival.