Harper One, 2011. Hardcover, 320 pages.

In past generations, one of the things pastors often enjoyed reading
were biographies of other pastors and missionaries. The lives of other
Christian servants offered a model and inspiration for succeeding
generations. Unfortunately, few biographies of pastors are published
these days. Fortunately, one that is available draws us into the life of
a gentle, brilliant minister named Eugene Peterson.

Peterson is
best known to most of us through his work on the contemporary English
version of the Bible, The Message. That work, which has sold millions of
copies, was rooted in his nearly three decades of work as pastor of a
local church.

In this new memoir, The Pastor, Peterson looks back on
a ministerial life that took him from a Montana childhood to seminary,
then ultimately to plant a church he then served for 29 years. He
reflects on his own life as a pastor and shares those stories from
pastoral ministry that shaped his own life.

Peterson also takes to
task much of what is happening in today’s church. He notes that “North
American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live
vocationally as a pastor.” He laments the pastorate today as “a way of
life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the
strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of
continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent.”

At
the heart of the problem are the values of contemporary American
culture, “the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be
marketed.” Such attitudes have infected the church, says Peterson,
creating “a great deal of confusion and dissatisfaction” for those in
pastoral ministry. The result is many pastors who defect and others who
are dismissed by churches seeking “pastors more to their liking.
“I
wonder if at the root of this defection is a cultural assumption that
all leaders are people who ‘get things done,’ and ‘make things happen.’
That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into
our awareness from the culture—politicians, businessmen, advertisers,
publicists, celebrities and athletes,” writes Peterson. “While being a
pastor certainly has some of these components, the pervasive element in
our 2,000-year 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
one another and with God…I want to give witness to this way of
understanding the pastor, a way that can’t be measured or counted, and
often isn’t even noticed.”

Discussing his monumental work The
Message
, Peterson writes: “As I set out to translate the New Testament
and eventually the Old Testament into contemporary American, I found
that most of the work already had been done. The translation, The
Message
, grew from the soil of 30 years of pastoral work. Planted in the
soil of my congregation and community, the seed words of the Bible
germinated and grew and matured. When it came time to do the actual
writing there in Pittsburgh, I felt that I was walking through an
orchard at harvest time, plucking fully formed apples and peaches and
plums from the laden branches. There is hardly a page in the Bible, this
lively revelation of God in Christ, that I had not seen lived in some
way or other by the men and women, saints and sinners, to whom I was
pastor—and then verified in my neighborhood and culture.”

Pastors, this is a book to enjoy, to savor and perhaps to use as a mirror to examine our own lives and ministries.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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