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The Pastor [Paperback]

Eugene H. Peterson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (18 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061988219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061988219
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 110,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Paperback. Pub Date :2012-09-18 Pages: 336 Language: English Publisher: HarperOne In The Pastor. author Eugene Peterson. translator of the multimillion-selling The Message. tells the story of how he started Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air. Maryland and his gradual discovery of what it really means to be a pastor. Steering away from abstractions. Peterson challenges conventional wisdom regarding church marketing. mega pastors. and the church's too-cozy relationship to American glitz and consumerism to present a simple. faith-based description of what being a minister means today. In the end. Peterson discovers that being a pastor boils down to paying attention and calling attention to 'what is going on now' between men and women. with each other and with God .

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight 7 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover
I took this book on holiday with me and boy was that a good choice. Having read it from cover to cover I thoroughly enjoyed actually being there with Eugene. I did however find that some of the wording was a tad over my head, but not to worry I wrote them down and looked them up on returning home, all in the gain of my own knowledge. Eugene comes over as a very wise, knowledgeable, kind man. And just the kind of Pastor anyone would want the pleasure of knowing and working with. In reading this book there have been laughter and tears but he never gave up on his quest or journey in life. It was fascinating to read how his church was formed and grew from humble beginnings to something wonderful for the whole community. My english has never been what I would call my strong point but that did not deter me from reading this book right through to the end. I was not about to give up at the first challenge of unknown words. I would like to thank Eugene personally for this book, it is a very good read, good being not the best of words to describe how 'good' this book is.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pastor 3 Jun 2011
Format:Hardcover
In his memoir of his life as a Pastor, Eugene Peterson shows us a way to re-attach our 'lost' souls and to our automated bodies in our ever chaotic world. A world in which so many of us are in search of a vocation and not a job. His words are simple and his text is living, just as he has lived his life accroding to his beliefs and how remaining true to God and the Word of Jesus we may all find a richer meaning to our own lives.
Eugene's book should be on the reading list of all Ivy League University undergraduates as it would certainly ground them in life of community as opposed to abstractions that are presented in business journals and manuals.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  90 reviews
193 of 201 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Non-Review 22 Feb 2011
By Matthew B. Redmond - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"...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." - Peterson

Hand-cuffed. I don't even know how to write a review of this book. A review is what you write when it isn't personal. A review is what you do for books. The Pastor is far more than a book. You need to understand that Eugene Peterson saved my vocational soul just over a year ago. And since that time I have been pointing people - especially pastors - to his books. Especially young pastors. So how about a non-review?

Maybe the evangelical world has been a circus for a long time. But I didn't notice. I didn't notice all the center rings, high-trapeze acts and dancing bears. And the unspeakable horror of then realizing you not only paid for a ticket but got paid to take part. You walk out of the arena with sticky soles under you, past the sideshows and into clean air but you have no idea if you should go back in. Who will help you now? Is the insanity the only choice? Is there a voice of sanity in this wilderness?

I remember lying in my bed. The weight of being a pastor was on me and I wanted it off. I knew I needed some help. Maybe circus is the wrong way to describe what is happening in America. For I was surrounded...hemmed in by managers and CEOs, shopkeepers and PR men and women. Marketing analysts and door-to-door salesman of religious goods were everywhere. But I needed a pastor. Lying there, I would've said, "I need a wise old sage." The need was for sanity...Spirit-given sobriety in a religious subculture drunk on the cause célèbre. I needed gray hairs, wrinkles and the experience of someone outside the world I had found myself in. The need was not for all the right answers but good questions. I needed the wisdom of 'a long obedience in the same direction.'

And then, like gifts, memories. Memories of a professor assigning one of Peterson's books for pastors - which I never really `read.' A friend - a fellow pastor - recommending another. And a frozen scene of someone else reading one, the title of which burned in my memory.

So I began reading his books, swallowing them whole sometimes and sipping from them at others. For all of last year. Each was a well-written refuge from the chaos. Every thesis leaving its mark.

Again, sanity.

So when I found out he was releasing his memoirs, I was elated. Do you remember when you were a kid and you kept going back to the same page in the toy section of the Sears Wish Book over and over, reading the description, looking at that toy, the one you wanted more than any other. That is how it was with the description page for The Pastor. And then I got my copy from the publisher. It was late in the afternoon. Too late to start, I waited till the morning. A few days later I was finished. My wife asked me if I was sad. "No, I will begin again tomorrow morning."

Reading a memoir of Eugene Peterson is as reading in another world. A world bereft of 'how' but full to bursting of 'what.' A world without pretension, devoid of formulas. A tome of sober reflection. No romantic vistas of pastoral success. No cheerleading.

Peterson's vision of the pastorate, as dictated by the scriptures, stands athwart the ideal American pastor. Patience over results. The ordinary over the celebrated. People over programs. Dignity over function. Leisurely spiritual direction over ministerial busyness. Prayer over a PR campaign. The even-keeled over the events. It really would be impossible to document how differently he thinks than the current zeitgeist on the definition of pastoral integrity.

Almost everyone knows him as the author of The Message. For this he is loved and hated. But Peterson was a church-planter before it was cool to be so. He was thinking and living through methodology and theology and those inevitable emotionally lean years long before most of today's church planters were born. He was thinking about the dangers of a consumer driven religious atmosphere raising the banner of relevance before we had a category for such.

Don't get me wrong. This is a cheerful book. It's just not full of the saccharine sentimentality or the gritty (edgy?) cynicism we have come to expect from so many famous ministry leaders. Smiles stretch across the pages. Contented belief pervades every chapter. Bound together by the common thread of the work of Christ for sinners - the message once delivered for all the saints sits fixed like an anchor between the covers.

Chronology holds no sway over Peterson's account of his life as a pastor. Poetry does. He moves like a poet through his experiences and insights. His love of words and their sanctity - not just utility - is witnessed in how every word counts. He has no interest in just relating stories for us to learn from. He, as the Pastor, is glorying in them as memories enlivened through words.

But there is a lot to learn.
52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual Work of Wisdom from a Pastor to Pastors! 28 Feb 2011
By Fr. Charles Erlandson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Over the years I have benefited immeasurably by the writings of Eugene Peterson. I think just about any dedicated Christian can pick up just about any work by Eugene Peterson and spiritually benefit from it. But this is especially true of pastors, of whom I am one.

Eugene Peterson understands pastors like no one else! The truth is that God has exalted the role of pastor, and yet men continue to demean it, undermine it, or ignore it. Peterson's "The Pastor: A Memoir" is therefore a very welcome work to a man who has become a pastor to pastors. In this work, Peterson hopes to restore the dignity of the role of the pastor. I highly recommend it to all who are called to serve in God's Church, and especially to those who may have lost their way or feel inadequate to the great vocation to which God has called you. It will bring rest to all who are weary and heavy laden.

But Peterson goes about his task in an unusual and refreshing way. What is perhaps most striking about Peterson's work is something suggested by the titles of his chapters. What you don't find is a list of theological themes or pastorals roles but what looks like experiences from Peterson's life. This is because "The Pastor" is the story of the formation of Eugene Peterson as a pastor. Telling his stories is his way of teaching us how to be pastors, for, as he says, there is no one blueprint for how to become and be a pastor. "The Pastor" is a wonderful look at the formation of one pastor, Peterson, told through the stories and experiences by which God formed him as a pastor. Peterson's story, while unique, is also therefore the story of every pastor. There is such a depth of personal wisdom made meaningful to all that "The Pastor" teaches in a way that few other books do.

Another gift that Peterson gives us, in addition to his stories, is an incarnational point of view. The reason why he names his first section "Topos and Kairos" is that the work of the pastor is not an abstract work but is always a call to a specific place (topos) and time (kairos). This is also why Peterson must imbed his advice on how to be a pastor in the real-life stories of his experience as a pastor. In this, we might say that he's following the lead of his Master, Jesus Christ, who presented his theology in terms of the real places, times, and things of the people whose lives He shepherded. Montana will always have a special place in Peterson's life, just as the places of the Bible where God met man became sacred places. We all have such places in our lives, and I regret that in my own life I have too often dedicated myself to the "spiritual" tasks at hand and haven't always appreciated the importance of the precise place and time where God has placed me.

As Peterson recounts the way his mother used to sing and tell Bible stories with a musical incantation, we realize that it's no wonder that Peterson writes with the ear of a poet and has the sense of a master storyteller. I think Peterson is trying to tell us that among everything else a pastor must be he should have a poetic spirit and be a storyteller. Interestingly enough, Peterson also relates that "I had learned much in my father's butcher shop that gave bone and muscle to my pastoral identity." One thing he learned for sure was some of the deeper meanings of the Levitical sacrifices of the Old Testament! From his father's hard work, Peterson also learned the liturgical rhythm of life that served him so well as a pastor.

From these humble beginnings, Peterson shares with us, step by step and story by story, how God led him to be a pastor, including the astounding revelation that to be a pastor meant that you have a congregation. This, in turn, led to the further revelation that not everyone who comes to a church comes for the best or most zealous of reasons! In Chapter 16, Peterson makes explicit what he's already been telling us all along: that a large part of Christianity is getting caught up in the story of Jesus Christ. Stories, Peterson tells us, are unpredictable, and so we get caught up in them. When the gospel is told as a story, we are, Peterson discovered, encouraged to see our own life and church in terms of God's story as well.

I find it interesting as well that Peterson found both his pastoral and authorial identity in John of Patmos, the disciple whom Jesus loved. In this way, Peterson also imaginatively envisions both his life as a pastor and the life of any pastor who is looking for a new and better vision of his sacred ministry.

Peterson closes his meditation on being a pastor with a letter to a young pastor. Like the entirety of the book, it's not at all what you might expect it to be. There's no encouragement that the young pastor is someone special or unique, only that his calling is unique. Instead, Peterson directly states that to be a pastor is to be someone who makes more professional mistakes than other professionals and to be someone who doesn't always have it all together. But that's OK because in the end the life of the pastor (as the life of any Christian) is to be one that is based on a complete trust on God and not oneself.

If you're looking for a different kind of book on pastors and pastoring that just might help you to see what God has been asking you to see for a long time - this just may be the book for you!

Here's an outline of "The Pastor":

I. Topos and Kairos
1. Montana: Sacred Ground and Stories
2. New York: Pastor John of Patmos

II. Intently Haphazard
3. My Mother's Songs and Stories
4. My Father's Butcher Shop
5. Garrison Johns
6. The Treeless Christmas of 1939
7. Uncle Sven
8. The Carnegie
9. Cousin Abraham
10. Mennonite Punch
11. Holy Land
12. Augustine Njokuobi and Elijah Odajara
13. Seminary
14. Jan

III. Shekinah
15. Ziklag
16. Catacombs Presbyterian Church
17. Tuesdays
18. Companies of Pastors
19. Willi Ossa
20. Bezalel
21. Eucharistic Hospitality
22. Appreciation and Tomfoolery
23. Pilgrimage
24. Heather-Scented Theology
25. Presbycostal
26. Emmaus Walks
27. Sister Genivieve
28. Eric Liddell
29. "Write in a Book What You See . . . "
30. My Ten Secretaries
31. Wayne and Claudia
32. Jackson
33. The Atheist and the Nun
34. Judith
35. Invisible Six Days a Week, Incomprehensible Seventh

IV. Good Deaths
36. The Next One
37. Wind Words
38. Fyodor
39. The Photograph
40. Death in the Desert

Afterword: Letter to a Young Pastor
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Memoir 4 Mar 2011
By Patti Chadwick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent memoir written by a great man. Eugene Peterson became famous after publishing his Bible translation "The Message". A pastor himself, he gives encouragement and hope to pastors, especially those who are finding ministry difficult. I really think that all pastors should read this book, but let's not stop there. I think congregations would benefit from this book as well, as it would give them insight into the pastoral role and will change the way you view and treat your pastor.
This was a great book.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There Are No Dittos in Souls 11 Mar 2011
By George P. Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In The Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson tells "the story of my formation as a pastor and how the vocation of pastor formed me." Peterson is best known as author of The Message, his "translation" of the Bible into "American words and metaphors and syntax." He recently completed a five-volume series--
"conversations"--about spiritual theology. And he has written numerous books about the pastoral vocation, the seedbed out of which all his other books has grown. This memoir narrates the journey of a Pentecostal kid from Montana becoming a Presbyterian pastor in Maryland.

For pastors, it is must-reading. For one thing, Peterson's story shows how God uses the particularity of our circumstances to shape us into the people he wants us to be, under the tutelage of Holy Scripture. For another thing, it offers a searing critique of the commoditization of American religion that turns "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." And finally, it does all this through a storytelling that alternates between humor, anger, frustration, and hope--the emotions all pastors face in their ministries.

Example: Peterson recounts being bullied by Garrison Johns in elementary school. Instructed by his mother to "turn the other cheek," Peterson endured the insults and beatings until "[s]omething snapped within me." He wrestled his tormentor to the ground, pinned him with his knees, and began pummeling him with his fists. His entreaties, "Say `uncle'" met with no response, so he began shouting, "Say, `I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.'" After a couple more hits, Johns said the words, gaining Peterson his first "convert." How easily the "world" infects the "church" with disease-ridden modes of ministry!

Another example: Early in Peterson's ministry, a local mental health institution invited him and other clergy to a two-year course in therapeutic technique. In the 1960s, when this took place, the pastoral counseling movement was gathering steam. Peterson learned much that was helpful from this instruction. But he also learned that counseling was not the pastor's vocation. "The people who made up my congregation had plenty of problems and more than enough inadequacies, but congregation is not defined by its collective problems. Congregation is a company of people who are defined by their creation in the image of God, living souls, whether they know it or not. They are not problems to be fixed, but mysteries to be honored and revered." That is the pastor's task.

In Peterson's telling, the pastor 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--this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful `without ceasing.'"

Local, personal, and prayerful. For me, these three words summarize Peterson's take on the pastoral vocation. Pastors lead congregations in a specific place. Montana is not Maryland. American is not Africa. Wise pastors understand the conditions of the place to which God has called them.

And they pay attention to the people among whom God has called them. Peterson quotes Baron Friedrich von Hügel, "there are no dittos in souls." Pastors must minister to people in their individuality, attentive to their inherent contradictions. Like his Uncle Sven, who was adored by his little sister (Peterson's mother), but abhorred by the wife he abused, and who killed him in self-defense: "When I finally did become a pastor, I was surprised at how thoroughly Sven had inoculated me against `one answer' systems of spiritual care." Souls are not dittos, and no ministry is one-size-fits-all.

But mostly, pastors pray, by which Peterson means that they enter an ongoing conversation with God characterized by listening and speaking to him. Early on, Peterson learned that "the vocation of pastor had to be understood entirely under the shaping influence of the biblical text," which teaches the redemption of creation and calls for a response of worship.

Peterson's memoir alternates between exasperation at what American churches so often are and hope at what they could be. He experienced both emotions in his ministry as a Presbyterian pastor in Maryland. But the dominant note of this personal narrative is hope. The church is "a colony of heaven in the country of death, a strategy of the Holy Spirit for giving witness to the already-inaugurated kingdom of God." This definition is not theological boilerplate. Peterson learned it from "wise Christians, both dead and alive." And though a Presbyterian, he shares the Pentecostal conviction that "everything, absolutely everything, in the scriptures is livable," including a different way of being pastor and church in the world.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let Peterson Have a Turn 28 Feb 2012
By Darryl Dash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Eugene Peterson is known in some circles as the guy who got a little too excited about The Shack, the guy who stuck up for Rob Bell and his book Love Wins, and the guy who created The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language : Numbered Edition. In other words, three strikes against him.

But Peterson is also the guy who's written books on the pastoral vocation that stand against the current of the North American church. Books like The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, and Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity are gifts to the church and have much to teach us about the shape of pastoral ministry.

So who exactly is Eugene Peterson? The guy who endorses and produces suspicious books, or the guy who writes books that should be read by pastors everywhere?

It turns out that Eugene Peterson is both. In The Pastor: A Memoir you encounter Peterson as the man who discovers that Henry Emerson Fosdick, a renowned liberal, isn't so bad after all; who finds unity in a group of pastors who range "from Christian to Jew, from conservative to liberal, and nearly every shade in between." If you go looking, there's enough to get Peterson written up in a more than a few discernment blogs without much effort.

But you also discover Peterson as the man who has much to teach us about what it means to be a pastor. He doesn't romanticize the pastorate; quite the contrary. But he gets it, and he helps me get it better than any other contemporary writer I know.

Peterson also understands that our culture is not a hospitable place for the pastoral vocation. He is almost seduced by the desire to become a therapist to his congregation, as some pastors do. He struggles with the desire to be a pastor who makes things happen, but is given a portrait that warns him against making this choice. Peterson gets that the church has "twenty different ways to kill you." I can certainly relate to the pastor he describes why he can't find time to talk at a deep level with people about spiritual things: "Because I have to run this damn church!"

Even as I read over my highlights from his book, I realize that this is a book that I need to read again. Peterson has helped confront some wrong ways of thinking as I take my fledgling steps towards planting a church. He's helped me identify some ways that I'm tempted to abandon the pastoral vocation for something more seductive. He offers correctives that are desperately needed, as well as sustenance for pastors who are weary and exhausted.

I needed this book. I'm grateful for what Peterson continues to each me about pastoring. If you, like me, are tired of being told how to pastor by the "sociologists and academics, the psychologists and business executives, the talk-show gurus and religious entrepreneurs," then let Peterson have a turn. You won't be sorry. I promise.
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