by Jeff Peterson
EUGENE H. PETERSON (HarperOne, 336 pp., hardcover)
Within moments of his introductory statement, “This book is the story of my formation as a pastor and how the vocation of pastor formed me,” Peterson opens up your imagination through his outstanding gift of story telling. As he journeys through his Pentecostal upbringing, aversion to pastors/pastoring, educational pursuits, stumbling into Presbyterianism, 30 years of pastoring (the same church), and ultimate commissioning to write The Message, this book is a must-read for pastors looking for deeply relevant, spiritual truth.
Cutting across the pragmatism of common pastoral helps today, Peterson weaves his theme throughout his book: “Pastoral tradition is not someone who ‘gets things done’ but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with another, and with God — this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful ‘without ceasing.’ ”
Peterson’s colaboring with God is refreshing. He trusts God. He allows God to work in His time in the hearts of his parishioners and the community he seeks to reach. Amidst the stresses of personal life and public ministry, you sense an abiding, confident rest to his life and ministry.
Peterson reveals his personal journey of forging his own pastoral theology. He tells of struggles, shifts, and epiphanies along the way: “the Badlands” where he questioned his effectiveness, to his awakening that a pastor’s call is “not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.” He is troubled by church leaders today who turn “each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric.” He weaves an alternative philosophy of ministry throughout the book.
Like a spiritual father leaving his most personal thoughts to his children, The Pastor, should be a well-received legacy by today’s pastor.
Reviewed by Jeff Peterson, senior pastor, Central Assembly of God, Springfield, Missouri.