Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is probably best known for his Bible translation The Message, or his countless books on the spiritual life or his many years as a seminary professor at Regent College. What probably isn’t as well known, is that Peterson was a pastor for 29 years before publishing his contemporary version of scripture, or writing many of his books or teaching at a seminary! Now retired and living in his hometown in Montana, Peterson’s latest book reflects on his life as a pastor. The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011) offers readers a behind-the-scenes look at Peterson’s life as a pastor of a Presbyterian church-plant outside of Baltimore, Maryland. The book explains how he reluctantly and haphazardly became a pastor, growing into his call overtime.

Writing honestly about his own struggles as a pastor, he is especially concerned with the state of the pastoral vocation today: “I didn’t want to be a religious professional whose identity was institutionalized. I didn’t want to be a pastor who sense of worth derived from whether people affirmed or ignored me. In short, I didn’t want to be a pastor in the ways that were most in evidence and more rewarded in the American consumerist and celebrity culture.” Instead, Peterson became a pastor with a ministry that was rooted in scripture and prayer; one that focused on worship of God and care for people over programs and number of attendees; and offered his Baltimore suburb something that was different from the world, not accommodating to culture.

Shepherding a flock of sinners is never easy, to be sure. But it’s definitely not easy being a pastor in today’s world. So much cultural pressure is working against people from becoming the pastors that are so desperately needed. Peterson’s book reminds pastors to keep first things first and reminds congregants of the challenges facing pastors today. This book is highly recommended for all people who care about the church and care about the people God has called to lead them.

--Derek Melleby

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