“cutting edge” interview highlight #1: eugene peterson

The first interview highlight from the Autumn 2007 Cutting Edge magazine I’d like to share is with Eugene Peterson in the Spring 2002 issue. Read the whole interview here–it is excellent. Peterson is a spiritual guide to me as a pastor. There are many voices on church leadership technique today, but Peterson diligently places pastoral leadership in front of us in theological terms. He walks a wonderful line of keeping our vision appropriately God-ward in his demand for biblical and theological integrity while at the same time speaking frankly about pastoral ministry in the ordinary terms in which it is actually lived–day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year. Here’s a few quotes with some commentary…

On Vocational Identity: 

“There is no way we can be a success in this culture on their terms. Most American pastors don’t want to hear this, though.”

We certainly do not want to hear that. This kind of evokes both a resonance about the counter-cultural nature of the Gospel and a despair because we conceive of success primarily in terms that translate nicely into American cultural categories and we want to acheive that sort of success. And we possess a remarkable ability to fail to genuinely hear that critique in the way that we quickly bolster our comfort within our cultural categories by pointing to perfectly reasonable explanations like how each number represents a person reached. The point is not that I don’t believe in that dictum, I do believe it. The point is that our quickness to restate it thinly masks our discomfort at the notion of someone challenging our easily we avoid really hearing something that might push or challenge us.

On the Pastoral Life:

“We want to do something big and influential and cost-efficient. But a pastoral life is not cost-efficient.”

The main business of being a pastoral is forming persons spiritually and forming the congregation into an authentic community of faith. This involves relationships. Most simply put as I know how, the pastor must grow in relationship with God and in relationship with the people. Relationships are not efficient things. In fact, they can be downright inefficient! This is difficult to keep as the driving focus when there are so many programmatic things to administrate. These may contribute to the formation process…depending. But many demands of “church work” end up detracting from the real space needed in time and in one’s soul to cultivate these relationships with God and people. Running the church demands efficient use of time, forming persons and communities in the Christian faith demands the inefficiency required by authentic and intimate relationships.

Further Thoughts on Pastoral Life and the Pace of Life:

“I think the most important thing a pastor does is who he or she is. We do a lot more by the way we live than by the way we are conducting ministry. This means that people are watching us… If we are harassed and hurrying and busy, even for all the right reasons, it gives them no place to say, ‘Oh, there is another way to live!’ To see us modeling something different.”

This flows from what I’m thinking about above. “Church work” can make a pastor exceedingly busy. But busyness is not conducive to pastoring a church. Pastoring a church involves room in the soul (that is freedom from being “harassed and hurrying and busy”) for deeply knowing God and genuinely hearing and speaking with people from a deep well of spiritual and biblical and theological grounding. People reflexively expect to encounter this sort of person in their pastor/s and I think they are right to do so. How, then, do we order our lives (those of us who are pastors) in order to be faithful to this demand? Somehow, appealing to better administrative management practices strikes me as falling back into the same paradigm. At the same, this directive sounds perfectly reasonable and for that reason shortcircuits (as I write above) meaningfully pondering the force of the indictment above for the sake of feeling comfortable with our own personal status quo.

I do know that one of my goals in the coming year is to move progressively toward living from my strengths and my calling as deeply and faithfully as I can. I believe this will best benefit myself and my church.


Published by Guy M Williams

Christian | Husband, Father | Pastor | 8th-Gen Texan | Texas A&M ‘96 | Asbury Seminary ‘01 | Enjoy family, reading, running, golf, college football

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