Book Review: The Pastor by Eugene Peterson

For months people have been telling me that I needed to read this book. I've made no secret about my admiration for Eugene Peterson. He has deeply shaped my thinking about Scripture and ministry and discipleship.

The Pastor is Eugene Peterson's ministry memoir. He moves more or less chronologically through his story, meandering. Peterson is an excellent storyteller. He owns his own voice.

The Pastor was a wonderful read.

Here are some things I enjoyed in the book ...

Eugene Peterson is unapologetically a pastor. He found himself, in various seasons, attracted to the work of a professor or a counselor. But his heartbeat is for pastoral ministry.

I find this challenging and inspiring. I've frequently found myself putting my hand to the plow and looking over my shoulder. Maybe I should jump fields. Professor. Counselor. Those are the options that occupy my overstressed thoughts. Peterson models a way of being in ministry that doesn't come naturally to me. And I'm grateful for it.

Eugene Peterson is also unapologetically a writer. When he worked as a pastor, he found a way to reads and write ... and to do it in a way that complemented his work in his church.

In ministry, it's easy to slip into utilitarian patterns of reading and writing. The world is full of how-to books. And people who read how-to book after how-to book begin to write how-to sermons. Now, there's nothing terrible about how-to sermons. But God doesn't hammer us with how-to's. Instead, God offers us stories and invites us into stories. I would love to be able to go and do likewise.

Two struggles with the book ...

Though Peterson pastored his church through the turbulent 60s and 70s, there's almost no mention of the civil rights movement or all the wars. I found myself very curious about how he shepherded his flock through that season.

Lastly, I struggled (as I do) with the language of "pastor." On the one hand, I resonate deeply with Peterson's vocation and his call. I want to be a pastor. I wonder if I already am a pastor. But on the other hand, I love being a missionary. I love the breadth and diversity of my work. I love the freedom.

All told, I would highly recommend The Pastor.

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