I’ve been bust the past week completing paperwork for the ordination process and I have not had time to write a new blog post. Luckily, a friend recently shared a wonderful post from Eugene Peterson that fits so well with the mission of this site.
Re-posting this article also allows me to give thanks for the life and work of Eugene Peterson, who passed from this life into the next on October 22, 2018. (click to read his obituary) I make it a point to read his wonderful book, The Contemplative Pastor, every summer. Eugene Peterson left the world a body of work that transform hearts and will shape ministry for decades to come.
Forty years ago, I found myself distracted. I was living 20 miles northeast of Baltimore in a small town that was fast becoming a suburb. Assigned there by my denomination to start a new congregation, I started out with a fair amount of confidence and energy, and with strong personal, organizational and financial support. But as time went on, I found myself increasingly at odds with my advisers on the means and methods used for ensuring the numerical and financial viability of the congregation.
It wasn’t long before I was in crisis. A deep chasm had opened up between what I was preaching and the way I was leading our congregational development. My attitude toward the men and women I was gathering in the congregation was silently shaped by how I was planning to use them to succeed, with little thought to feeding their souls with the bread of life. I found myself thinking competitively about the other churches in town, about how I could beat them at the numbers game.
I never wavered in my theological convictions, but I had to get a church up and running, and I was ready to use any means to do it: appeal to people’s consumer instincts, use abstract principles to unify enthusiasm, shape goals through catchy slogans, create publicity images to provide ego enhancement.
Then one day my wife and I attended a lecture by Paul Tournier, who showed me another way of being. Given my distracted condition, the timing was just right. The lecture provided a fine image, shaping my life personally as a follower of Jesus, and vocationally as a companion to other followers of Jesus, in the role of pastor and writer.