Peterson, The Pastor


Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir. HarperOne, 2011.

Referenced in: Pastoral Theology Summary

Eugene Peterson’s volumes on pastoral theology are already legendary. This memoir is a culmination of decades of pastoral work, and is pastoral theology through autobiography. It follows several other works on the subject of pastoring: Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (1980), Working the Angles (1987), The Contemplative Pastor (1989), and Under the Unpredictable Plant (1992).

This is Peterson’s magnum opus. It journals how he came to understand and live within his role. He adopts as his theme, “every step an arrival,” a phrase he borrowed from a poem by Denise Levertov. He says:

I recognized in her phrase a metaphor for my own formation as a pastor: every step along the way – becoming the pastor I didn’t know I was becoming and the person I now am, an essential component that was silently and slowly being integrated into a coherent life and vocation – an arrival.” (4)

He develops this metaphor as a posture of being attentive to each circumstance one faces, seeking to discern how God would wish to use these to shape us. He also insists this must be learned by everyone anew, and that he is not presenting a blueprint.

I want to insist there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life: the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives – these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops, and comes to birth is unique to each pastor. (5-6)

This book is rich with insight. I have always loved Peterson’s books, but I think this is his best. It is my top recommendation for pastoral theology.

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

From the Publisher

In The Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, the translator of the multimillion-selling The Message and the author of more than thirty books, offers his life story as one answer to the surprisingly neglected question: What does it mean to be a pastor?

When Peterson was asked by his denomination to begin a new church in Bel Air, Maryland, he surprised himself by saying yes. And so was born Christ Our King Presbyterian Church. But Peterson quickly learned that he was not exactly sure what a pastor should do. He had met many ministers in his life, from his Pentecostal upbringing in Montana to his seminary days in New York, and he admired only a few. He knew that the job’s demands would drown him unless he figured out what the essence of the job really was. Thus began a thirty-year journey into the heart of this uncommon vocation—the pastorate.

The Pastor steers away from abstractions, offering instead a beautiful rendering of a life tied to the physical world—the land, the holy space, the people—shaping Peterson’s pastoral vocation as well as his faith. He takes on church marketing, mega pastors, and the church’s too-cozy relationship to American glitz and consumerism to present a simple, faith-filled job description of what being a pastor means today.

In the end, Peterson discovered that being a pastor boiled down to “paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.” The Pastor is destined to become a classic statement on the contemporary trials, joys, and meaning of this ancient vocation.

About the Author

Eugene H. Peterson, the author of the bestselling contemporary translation of the Bible titled The Message, is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and the author of more than thirty books, including The Jesus Way, Practice Resurrection, Leap Over a Wall, and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He and his wife, Jan, live in Montana.

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