Jonathan Merritt, from Religion News, has produced another extremely interesting interview, this time with well-known pastor and theologian Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message, a very inspired, I think, contemporary paraphrase of the Bible. Here are a few quotes (the emphases are mine).
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…I never really thought I’d be a pastor because I had so many pastors I didn’t respect. I just assumed I would be in academic work, so I started doing that—I went to seminary and graduate school to be a professor. And then I became a professor at the seminary in New York City where I graduated. But they didn’t pay me very much. Greek and Hebrew professors aren’t very high on the pay scale. So I got a part-time job in a church, because I had been ordained but just to be a professor. I’d never been around a pastor who was a man of God, to tell you the truth.
…pastoring is not a very glamorous job. It’s a very taking-out-the-laundry and changing-the-diapers kind of job. And I think I would try to disabuse them of any romantic ideas of what it is. As a pastor, you’ve got to be willing to take people as they are. And live with them where they are. And not impose your will on them. Because God has different ways of being with people, and you don’t always know what they are.
The one thing I think is at the root of a lot of pastors’ restlessness and dissatisfaction is impatience. They think if they get the right system, the right programs, the right place, the right location, the right demographics, it’ll be a snap. And for some people it is: if you’re a good actor, if you have a big smile, if you are an extrovert. In some ways, a religious crowd is the easiest crowd to gather in the world. Our country’s full of examples of that. But for most, pastoring is a very ordinary way to live.
JM: Your book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, has become something of a Christian classic since it was released more than thirty years ago. How have you seen discipleship change over the last three decades and what advice would you offer people who want to live that long obedience in the midst of an instant society?
EP: I hate to be pessimistic, but it’s declined. At this point the world is making a bigger impact on people than discipleship is. And so I think you end up working with small starts and long finishes. I can’t believe A Long Obedience has had as long of a life as it has.
JM: Eighty-one years is a long time. As you enter your final season of life, what would you like to say to younger Christians who are itchy for a deeper and more authentic discipleship? What’s your word to them?
EP: Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.
JM: I know I speak for millions when I say, “Thank you for being faithful. Faithful to the end.”
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You may read HERE the original interview. The article end with a video presentation. It is really worth watching.