Quote of the Day: The Pastor

“…I want to insist that there is no blueprint on file for becoming a pastor. In becoming one, I have found that it is a most context-specific way of life:the pastor’s emotional life, family life, experience in the faith, and aptitudes worked out in an actual congregation in the neighborhood in which she or he lives – these people just as they are, in this place. No copying. No trying to be successful. The ways in which the vocation of pastor is conceived, develops and comes to birth is unique to each pastor.”

-Eugene Peterson from his new book just published The Pastor: A Memoir (HarperOne, 2011)

I think this quote alone is worth a million dollars.  It is (and should be) freeing to know the process of becoming a pastor is highly individual to each person – each pastor is different and each pastor should feel free to be who they are and function in the role of pastor as God has called them and as is befitting with their own personalities and makeup.  I don’t know if I can say any one pastor is better than another but to say some do “seem” to live out their callings as pastors more effectively than others.

But then again, if the process of a life lived as a pastor is unique, how can such a statement stand?  What is considered effective?  Who is considered a “good” or “bad” pastor?   I think I can make such a statement because of a concept called “pastoral identity.”  Some pastors reveal a strong and healthy pastoral identity (which is a kind of sense of security in one’s calling and vocation as a pastor) whereas, I know there are others who have more or less weaker senses of pastoral identity, they do not seem to be as comfortable with their calling or vocation (which could call into question the validity of such) – I would suggest those with stronger pastoral identities are “more effective” in their callings than those who are not primarily because they are not trying to be something they are not.

Seems to me that anyone who is a pastor should read this book and those struggling with their own sense of pastoral identity should seriously consider reading this other book by Peterson.

You can learn more about the book here.

19 responses to “Quote of the Day: The Pastor

  1. That is a great quote. And it is a great quote for this book because I think Peterson cuts off any reader who would seek to become so much like him they lose themselves. The heart of Peterson’s ministry is the model and this quote makes sure the reader knows that.

  2. I attended a church with a Type-A pastor. There was a man on staff who was not Type-A. He was a good administrator and a very good preacher (on the very few occasions that he was allowed to do so). Eventually he left the ministry (while staying in the church), because he had become convinced that this was not his calling. Knowing the pastor as well as I did, I was convinced that this was his idea. He convinced his associate that there was only one way to do ministry (he was quite arrogant about this). Since the associate did not have the same personality as the pastor, he figured that he must not be called. What a shame. He would have been very good.

    • Bob, that is a shame indeed. This is a reason I get very uncomfortable with all present emphasis on certain types of “leadership” in the Evangelical church at large – it has the potential to do to many pastors what it did to your friend.

  3. *ahem* (pardon me)

    Grace & Peace, my Pastor Brothers – and Brian knows how sincerely I support what you all do, all of you… but I have to intrude.

    Maybe you’re all perfectly aware of this already, but there’s a very good reason why Peterson’s SO very correct. There is no blueprint for the role of a pastor because the New Testament never shows us one man (OR woman!) doing what you brothers do.

    You can extract ‘principles of pastoral care’ from the scriptures about Jesus, Paul and the gang. You can apply these principles sincerely and passionately with all practical skill into various [un- or] organizational contexts. But you cannot take the apostolic pattern and mimic it. Or, maybe you could, but what you all do doesn’t mimic the apostolic model on display in the New Testament.

    Personally, this brings me some hope. If Peterson is willing (?) to acknowledge *why* there’s no model for being a Pastor, then Pastors everywhere might take an even bigger load off and stop trying to be what they’re not set up to be. Or quit and do something different. Either way, really. Sincerely.

  4. I appreciate your input Bill – in some ways you function like a prophet for me, like a burr under the saddle you keep me honest and shifting in my seat so i can’t get comfortable! 🙂

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