The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

I just finished The Pastor by Eugene Peterson, his memoir on pastoral life and vocation. I bought the Kindle edition and the Audible version so I could have both text and audio.

Why buy both a kindle and audio version?

The great thing about living in small town Montana is having to drive a lot. What others consider a curse becomes an opportunity for listening to podcasts or audio books. So I listened to the vast majority of the book while driving, however I am really glad I can go back to the text version for deeper reflection.

Here are some of my reflections on Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor.

The first thing that I am reflecting on is:

Vocation is formed out of the real events of life.

If you’re a ministry leader, then your calling started long before you any kind of appointment. It began in your home, it developed as you played with friends, and began to take shape in the everyday events of life. Reading Eugene’s memoir was helpful in thinking about how spiritual formation happens in the life of ministry leaders. His memoir makes it obvious the seeds of his vocation were sown early in his life by his mother, congregational experiences, and life in his father’s butcher shop. Even the school bully played a part.

As I listened to and now read The Pastor, thoughts about my own spiritual formation have come to mind. I had my own bully’s to deal with and I now realize that they played a part in my own formation, as did the rest of my upbringing. It’s helpful to reflect on how the events of life are used by God in shaping us toward his call and our vocation.

The second thing I am reflecting on is:

Sometimes we find our vocation by accident or by surprise.

Early in life, I would have never imagined pastor as a vocation. It found me and not the other way around. Not everyone will serve in a particular role for a lifetime.  Most people won’t. But there are some callings that seem to go deeper and are more embedded than others. While anyone can “burn out” ministry leaders often feel a sense of long-term calling and vocation. Sometimes this calling came to us by surprise.

Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson

Eugene actually chose not to be a pastor. He wanted to be a professor, scholar and writer. His own words are, “I was going to write books for people I would never meet” (page 96).

The woman who became his wife wanted to marry a pastor. She sacrificed her dream to marry Eugene. Eugene tells beautiful stories about their courtship, early marriage and how he came to find his true vocation as a pastor, much to his own surprise, and likely hers. A twist in a story, an awakening to the inner working of the Spirit and His formative work led Eugene to drop his doctoral work and enter into his calling as a pastor.

I suspect that what is true for Eugene is true for most of us. Callings are usually the result of something deeper. Some people would describe them as genetics or wiring. For those of us who listen well, we know that there is spiritual formation going on. It is, in fact, the one thing and the first thing that makes us who we are, even more so than our DNA. Reading The Pastor helped me to think about my own calling and how deep it runs.

The best part of listening to and now reading Eugene Peterson’s The Pastor is that it has plunged me into my own journey, vocation and formation. Ministry leaders need this kind of reflection, especially if we are going to be true to our calling. Seeing the events of our lives through the lenses of spiritual formation and vocation will likely help us to stay in ministry for the long haul.

If you haven’t read The Pastor then I would encourage you to get a copy. Then come back and let me know what you think in the comment section below.

If you have read it, tell me your thoughts.

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