12 Quotes from “The Pastor: A Memoir”

Over the summer, one of the books I worked through was The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson. I’m not normally a memoir fan, but this one grabbed me and I got so much out of it. It was like sitting across from him and gleaning so many nuggets of wisdom.

Here are some things that stood out to me:

The pervasive element in our two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who “get 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.”

Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus’ name. A place where dignity is conferred.

My “work” assignment was to pay more attention to what God does than what I do, and then to find, and guide others to find, the daily, weekly, yearly rhythms that would get this awareness into our bones.

Preaching is proclamation, God’s word revealed in Jesus, but only what it gets embedded in conversation, in a listening ear and responding tongue, does it become gospel.

We get serious about the Christian life, we eventually end up in a place and among people decidedly uncongenial to what we expected.

The Holy Spirit forms church to be a colony of heaven in the country of death.

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.

My work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.

The only way the Christian life is brought to maturity is through intimacy, renunciation, and personal deepening.

You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed. To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting out of the way. A certain blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work. For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed. Many years earlier a pastor friend told me that the pastoral ego ‘has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.’

A clamoring ego needs to be purged from the pastor’s soul.

We had simplified our defining of Sabbath-keeping to three words: pray and play. On Sabbath we would do nothing that was necessary, obligatory, “useful.” We would set the day apart for the unfettered, the free, the unearned. Pray and play.

There were so many more, but you get the idea. Such a helpful book for me.