The pastor’s question is, “Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”- Eugene Peterson
I’m currently in a “wait and see” season of life. I’ve described it to a friend as feeling like a shepherd with no flock. Our time at our previous church came to an end in September 2013 and now we are waiting to see where God leads us next.
While I’ve been waiting, I have done a lot of praying and soul searching. I have immersed my soul in God’s Word and listened to dozens of wonderful sermons from pastors Mark Driscoll (Seattle) and Tim Keller (New York City).
I have also been reading a lot. One of the books I just finished is titled The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson. Peterson, best known for his translation of the Bible called the Message, has also written numerous books on pastoring/shepherding.
The Contemplative Pastor is a really great book that I would recommend for anyone in ministry- but especially for a pastor who has already put in his first decade of service and is looking for wisdom from a pastor who had shepherded his people for decades.
Peterson encourages pastors to embrace “the unhurried life”- to leave room for God to move and to do life with messy people. He says it this way:
How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?…I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.
That is such a good word. Too often, we rush around trying to accomplish great things for God instead of just “be” and live in communion with God’s spirit.
Peterson also encourages pastors to really love their people and to take time for them.
Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”
If you are in ministry or if you feel like God has given you the spiritual gift of shepherding, I would strongly encourage you to pick up this book. It will stretch and challenge you and help you on your journey to becoming more like our Great Shepherd- Jesus.