Friday, May 8, 2009

Pastors, Pastor

Last year around this time I wrote a piece called Pastors Pastor. I was actually thinking about re-running it pretty soon, but now I'll only link it :-) as reader Ken Stoll emailed me this great piece highlighting words from Eugene Peterson (pastor, writer, the dude behind The Message Bible) encouraging pastors to pastor.

This is prophetic stuff for the current evangelical pastorate. Let him who has ears hear.
‘The most important thing a pastor does is stand in a pulpit every Sunday and say, “Let us worship God.” If that ceases to be the primary thing I do in terms of my energy, my imagination, and the way I structure my life, then I no longer function as a pastor. I pick up some other identity. I cannot fail to call the congregation to worship God, to listen to his Word, to offer themselves to God. Worship becomes a place where we have our lives redefined for us. If we’re no longer operating out of that redefinition, the pastoral job is hopeless. Or if not hopeless, it becomes a defection. We join the enemy. We’ve quit our basic work’.

‘I don’t ever want to convey that our primary job as pastors is to fix a problem. Our primary work is to make saints. We’re in the saint-making business. If we enter the human-potential business, we’ve lost our calling’.

‘You cannot go to a pulpit week after week and preach truth accurately without constant study. Our minds blur on us, and we need that constant sharpening of our minds. And without study, without the use of our mind in a disciplined way, we are sitting ducks for the culture’.

‘I get my job description from the Scriptures, from my ordination vows. If I let the congregation decide what I’m going to do, I’m as bad as a doctor who prescribes drugs on request. Medical societies throw out doctors for doing that kind of thing; we need theological societies to throw out pastors for doing the same thing. And if you give up prayer and study, you will soon give up the third area: people’.

‘The person who prays for you from the pulpit on Sunday should be the person who prays for you when you’re dying. Then there’s a connection between this world and the world proclaimed in worship. Classically – and I have not seen anything in the twentieth century that has made me revise my expectation – a pastor is local. You know people’s names, and they know your name. There’s no way to put pastoral work on an assembly line … Pastoral care can be shared, but never delegated. If the congregation perceives that I exempt myself from that kind of work, then I become an expert. I become somehow elitist; I’m no longer on their level. Elitism is an old demon that plagues the church’.

‘The church is not a functional place. It’s a place of being’.

‘It’s odd: We live in this so-called postmodernist time, and yet so much of the public image of the church is this rational, management-efficient model. If the postmodernists are right, that model is passe; it doesn’t work any more. In that sense, I find myself quite comfortably postmodern. I think pastors need to cultivate “unbusyness.” I use that word a lot. My father was a butcher. When he delivered meat to restaurants, he would sit at the counter, have a cup of coffee and piece of pie, and waste time. But that time was critical for building relationships, for doing business. Sometimes I’m with pastors who don’t wander around. They don’t waste time. Their time is too valuable. They run to the tomb, and it’s empty, so they run back. They never see resurrection. Meanwhile, Mary’s wasting time; she’s wandering around. To be unbusy, you have to disengage yourself from egos – both yours and others – and start dealing with souls. Souls cannot be hurried’.

‘For me, being a pastor means being attentive to people. But the minute I start taking my cues from them, I quit being a pastor’.

‘Most pastoral work is slow work. It is not a program that you put in place and then have it happen. It’s a life. It’s a life of prayer’.

The quotes are taken from an interview with Peterson conducted by Leadership Magazine.


Mike said...

I love Eugene Peterson. I recently read "The Contemplative Pastor" and it forever changed the way I think about ministry...he spends a lot of time in that book talking about these same ideas--being the pastor, worship, prayer, and being unbusy. Fantastic stuff...everyone in ministry or thinking about going into ministry should be required to read it.

Jared said...

I love "The Contemplative Pastor." Great book.

"The Art of Pastoring" by Hansen is another really good one. I read them back to back and found them wonderful in conjunction.

bill streger said...

The tough thing is, NOBODY is talking about this. Not even most of the reformed, solid, gospel-centered guys I look up to. For every mention of pastoring and shepherding, there are 100 that talk about contextualization, missiology, strategy, vision, etc.

It's taken me years to learn that phrases like "unbusy", "shepherd", and "small" are not bad words. The entire ministry world is constantly telling us not to be pastors, but "ranchers" who are pushing the mission forward. Argh.