Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Quotable Peterson: Pastoral Work

I saw a Twitter post the other day asking for favorite Eugene Peterson quotes.  Well, some of those would would take more than the 280 characters Twitter allows.  I’ve read pretty much everything he’s written so I have a lot of quotes.  Perhaps I’ll do a couple of blog posts.  This post focuses on some of my favorite quotes on pastoral life.  Pastors will appreciate these quotes.  But non-pastors might find them educational as well …


America’s pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate.  They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs.  Congregations still pay their salaries.  Their names remain on the church stationery and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays.  But they are abandoning their posts, their calling.  They have gone whoring after other gods.  What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.   Working the Angles

I had never articulated it just this way before.  “You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed.  To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting out of the way.  A certain blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work.  For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed.  Many years earlier a pastor friend told me that the pastoral ego ‘has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.’”  The Pastor: A Memoir

Pastoral work consists of modest, daily, assigned work.  It is like farm work.  Most pastoral work involves routines similar to cleaning out the barn, mucking out the stalls, spreading manure, pulling weeds.  This is not, any of it, bad work in itself, but if we expected to ride a glistening black stallion in daily parades and then return to the barn where a lackey grooms our steed for us, we will be severely disappointed and end up being horribly resentful.  Under the Predictable Plant

So sinner becomes not a weapon in an arsenal of condemnation, but the expectation of grace.  Simply to be against sin is a poor basis for pastoral ministry.  But to see people as sinnersas rebels against God, missers of the mark, wanderers from the way—that establishes a basis for pastoral ministry that can proceed with great joy because it is announcing God great action in Jesus Christ “for sinners.”  The Contemplative Pastor

It is not the pastor’s job to simplify the spiritual life, to devise common-denominator formulas, to smooth out the path of discipleship.  Some difficulties are inherent in the way of spiritual growth – to deny them, to minimize them, or to offer shortcuts is to divert the person from true growth.  It is the pastor’s task, rather, to be companion to persons who are in the midst of difficulty, to acknowledge the difficulty and thereby give it significance, and to converse and pray with them through the time so that the loneliness is lightened, somewhat, and hope is maintained, somehow.  Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work

Most pastoral work takes place in obscurity: deciphering grace in the shadows, searching out meaning in a difficult text, blowing on the embers of a hard-used life.  This is hard work and not conspicuously glamorous.  Under the Predictable Plant

The pastor is the one person in the community who is free to take men and women seriously just as they are, appreciate them just as they are, give them the dignity that derives from being the “image of God,” a God-created being who has eternal worth without having to prove usefulness or be good for anything.  The Pastor: A Memoir

Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command, promise and invitation.  The Contemplative Pastor

In the disordered time in which we live, pastors can’t get along without [psychologists] Dr. Wall and Dr. Hansen.  But their work is not my work.  Knowing they are there to do their work, I am free to do my work.  And my work is not to fix people.  It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.  The Pastor: A Memoir


There are so many more quotes I’ve gathered in my files, but these are enough for now.  Worth chewing on.  Worth considering.  Worth practicing.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that's some good stuff, John! I'm not a pastor, but the words there speak a lot of truth to all believers.

    Thanks for sharing, and have a good one,