Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some Great Advice from Eugene

Jason Goroncy quotes from/links to a Leadership interview with Eugene Peterson. Here are some of the highlights...

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.

Listening, paying attention to people is the most inefficient way to do anything. It’s tedious, and it’s boring, and when you do it, it feels like you’re wasting time and not getting anything done. So when the pressures start to mount, when there are committees to run to and budgets to fix, what’s got to go? Listening to people. Seeing them in their uniqueness, without expecting anything of them. You quit paying attention, and people get categorized and recruited. It doesn’t take long for pastors to become good manipulators. Most of us learn those skills pretty quickly. If you can make a person feel guilty, you can make him or her do almost anything. And who’s better at guilt than pastors?

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.

My history with Eugene proves the dictum, "don't judge an author by any one book he/she has written." I was first introduced to his work through The Message, which probably wasn't a good thing. At the time I was working on a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology, and was cultivating all sorts of prejudices against dynamic equivalent translations. The Message nauseated me. It was, in my sophomoric estimation, an amplified version that utilized contemporary language contemptibly. I decided to hold the book in derision, and therefore dismissed Peterson. Then I read The Contemplative Pastor for a class assignment, and everything changed. The book rattled some things deep inside me. I had to talk to someone about it. I went to the Children's Pastor at my church to discuss the book. He said, "no one has taught me more about what it means to be a pastor than Eugene Peterson." My mindset quickly changed. So, to make a short story less short, I'd urge you to read more than one work by an author before passing judgment on him or her.

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