New Memoir by Eugene Peterson, 'The Pastor,' Tells the Story of His Vocation and Laments the Church Growth Complex He Says Has Ruined the Pastorate

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In The Pastor, Eugene H. Peterson, the translator of the multimillion-selling The Message and the author of more than thirty books, offers his life story as one answer to the surprisingly neglected question: What does it mean to be a pastor?

Cover image The Pastor a Memoir by Eugene H. Peterson

Cover: The Pastor, A Memoir by Eugene H. Peterson

“Eugene possesses the rare combination of a pastor's heart and a pastor's art. Take and read!" —Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline

Eugene Peterson, translator of the multi-million selling contemporary English version of the Bible, The Message, spent 29 years in the pulpit, 20 years as a professor, and has written 30 influential books on church, spirituality, and the Bible. Now, in his latest book, THE PASTOR: A Memoir (February 2011; HarperOne), he recounts his “haphazard” formation as a pastor. He also challenges the church-as-business model, and laments the pastorate as “a way of life that is in ruins,” corrupted by the “strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans.”

“I had never planned to be a pastor, never was aware of any inclination to be a pastor. And then—at the time it seemed to arrive abruptly—there it was: Pastor. I was a pastor long before I knew I was a pastor; I just never had a name for it,” he writes.

Peterson grew up in Montana, where big sky and breathtaking natural beauty became “sacred space” that shaped him as a person and a pastor. As a child, he accompanied his mother as she led Pentecostal services for men from the logging and mining camps, developing his pastoral imagination. Meanwhile, the community atmosphere of his father’ butcher shop colored his understanding of congregation.

Peterson recalls how his calling to the pastorate was nurtured by many teachers and mentors, from Scripture to seminary to congregants. He also found sustenance in the support of his wife, Jan, and the friendship of colleagues in ministry. He writes of his evolving spiritual theology and his understanding of church and pastoral experiences, including:

•On a Pastor’s Workplace: “a gathering of saints and sinners.”
•On a Pastor’s Assignment: “to pay more attention to what God does than what I do and then to guide others to this awareness.”
•On Church: “a colony of heaven in the country of death, a strategy of the Holy Spirit for giving witness to the kingdom of God.”
•On How Church Growth Ethos Diminishes Vocation: Turning congregations into consumers “a blasphemous desecration of the way of life to which the church ordained me.”
•On the “Badlands: A six-year period of “passivity” that he learned was the dormancy necessary for growth, during which he discovered his second vocation as a writer.

Peterson spent 29 years as pastor of Christ the King, a Presbyterian Church USA church that he was called by the denomination to build in a suburb of Baltimore. There he discovered that being a pastor wasn’t about how many people filled his pews each week but rather about “paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.” THE PASTOR gives witness to “this way of understanding pastor, a way that can’t be measured or counted and often isn’t even noticed.”

Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message, the bestselling contemporary translation of the Bible, is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and the author of over thirty books, including The Jesus Way, Practice Resurrection, and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He and his wife Jan live in Montana.

The Pastor: A Memoir
by Eugene Peterson
HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
February 2011│$25.99│Hardcover│ISBN 13: 9780061988202

Praise for The Pastor

“If anyone knows how to be a pastor in the contemporary context that person is Eugene Peterson. Eugene possesses the rare combination of a pastor’s heart and a pastor’s art. Take and read!” — Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline

“I’ve been nagging Eugene Peterson for years to write a memoir. In our clamorous, celebrity-driven, entertainment culture, his life and words convey a quiet whisper of sanity, authenticity, and, yes, holiness.” — Philip Yancey, author of What Good is God?

”A burning bush of a book, where a butcher shop becomes a temple and a bully gets saved in the funniest conversion story I have ever read. It is extravagantly well-written, but that is one of its least important features. It is a window, fashioned by a master craftsman, through which we glimpse footprints of the One who still walks in the garden in the cool of the day.” — John Ortberg, author of The Me I Want To Be

“A good book for folks who like pastors. And a good book for folks who don’t. The Pastor is the disarming tale of one of the unlikely suspects who has helped shape North American Christianity.” — Shane Claiborne author of The Irresistible Revolution

“Eugene Peterson excavates the challenges and mysteries regarding pastors and church and gives me hope for both. This a must read for every person who is or thinks they are called to be a pastor and for every person who has one.” — William Paul Young, author of The Shack

“The Pastor describes pastoral life like no other text I have ever read, ever. More than a gifted writer, Eugene Peterson is a voice calling upon the churches to recover the vocation of the pastor in order to experience the renewing of their faith in the midst of an increasingly commercialized, depersonalized, and spiritually barren land.” — Dale T. Irvin, President, New York Theological Seminary


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