what pastors do

While preparing to preach on Jonah last week I had the opportunity to read Eugene Peterson's book on the pastor's calling titled "Under the Unpredictable Plant". Eugene is well know for his wonderful contemporary paraphrase of the Bible called "The Message". During his time teaching at Regent College in Vancouver I was fortunate enough to meet him on a couple of occasions. Now that he is retired and living in Montana I regularly wish that I could go back in time and seek him out as a teacher during his time at Regent. Fortunately, Eugene has been a prolific writer and so I am able to engage in conversation with him through his books. Here is an example of the kind of wisdom that he offers people like me ...

"What pastors do, or at least are called to do, is really quite simple. We say the word God accurately, so that congregations of Christians can stay in touch with the basic realities of their existence, so they know what is going on. And we say the Name personally, alongside our parishioners in the actual circumstances of their lives, so they will recognize and respond to the God who is both on our side and at our side when it doesn't seem like it and we don't feel like it.

Why do we have such a difficult time keeping this focus? Why are we so easily distracted?

Because we get asked to do a lot of things other than this, most of which seem useful and important. The world of religion generates a huge market for meeting all the needs that didn't get met in the shopping mall. Pastors are conspicuous in this religious marketplace and are expected to come up with the products that give customer satisfaction. Since the needs seem legitimate enough, we easily slip into the routines of merchandising moral advice and religious comfort. Before long we find that we are program directors in a flourishing business. We spend our time figuring out ways to attractively display god-products. We become skilled at pleasing the customers. Before we realize what has happened, the mystery and love and majesty of God, to say nothing of the delicate subtleties of souls, are obliterated by the noise and frenzy of the religious marketplace."

- Eugene Peterson "Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness" (pp. 172-173)

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