Retired Theologian Eugene Peterson On Being A Pastor

Eugene Peterson is a well know Presbyterian theologian that taught for years in the area of spirituality.

He shares in the video interview at the link below some of his wisdom on pastoring, churches and today’s Christian world.

You may also read HERE the transcript of his talk (thanks to my son for this link). Here is a fragment:

BOB ABERNETHY, host: We have a profile today of the writer and retired Presbyterian minister Eugene Peterson. His latest book is “The Pastor,” a memoir that includes Peterson’s concerns about how hard it is for pastors and everyone else to live Christian lives in modern America. Peterson is best known for one of his many earlier books, “The Message,” his translation of the entire Bible into everyday American English. “The Message” has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.

Peterson lives now in northwestern Montana near Glacier National Park. In late winter it is both majestic and full of life. Peterson grew up nearby, in Kalispell in the Flathead Valley. His father was a butcher who built a summer place on Flathead Lake, which Peterson and his wife, Jan, expanded and improved. When we met there, I asked Peterson about his theology, but he said he has little time for anything abstract. He listens for the holy, he said, in people and in the quiet of the place he loves.

EUGENE PETERSON: How do you pay attention to the unheard, the unseen? In a cluttered, noisy, distracted society it’s very hard to do it. A lot of the language in the church—well, not just the church, in religion itself, has to do with trying to figure out the truth of things. What’s true? What’s true? And I’m not really interested in what’s true. I want to know if I can live it. I want to test it out.

ABERNETHY: Peterson was the founding pastor and for 30 years the minister of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church near Baltimore, Maryland. Because he had been trained as a scholar, he started out giving lectures from the pulpit.

PETERSON: After a couple of years I realized, you know, this isn’t working, and I began to change the way I talked, the way I preached, the way I taught, so I was inviting conversation, and you enter into the soul, the spirit of somebody else by listening to them, not by telling them something. I get asked, what do you miss most about being a pastor? I think it’s the intimacy, the incredible gift of intimacy. You go through death with somebody, with their families, and there’s an intimacy that comes through that that is just incomparable.

ABERNETHY: In his 30-some books, one of Peterson’s themes is that there is no way pastors can develop one-on-one relationships with their people if their churches have more than about 500 members.

PETERSON: A pastor in personal relationship is not just trying to find ways to make people feel good, loved, whatever. This is a kingdom life we are living. It has to do with salvation. It has to do with justice. It has to do with compassion, and you can’t do that wholesale. You just can’t.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

One thought on “Retired Theologian Eugene Peterson On Being A Pastor”

  1. I love Eugene Peterson’s THE JESUS WAY conversational book … a central point/theme for the Renovare annual conference in 2009.

    I love his intellectual honesty and thoughtful way of expressing Biblical knowledge.


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