Thank God for those who walk before us and communicate their experiences in ministry in ways that stimulate, motivate, and equip us for our work in the kingdom. Eugene Peterson has been a pastor, scholar, author, and poet, and has helped many over the years understand the very heart of ministry. I recently read again an interview that Peterson gave, and I was stunned by how gently yet cuttingly he described the very work of pastoring today.
Read this following excerpt and reflect on your own calling—and Peterson’s cautions—to pastoring.
(Interview Question) If you were asked by one to describe what is at the heart of the work of pastoring and shepherding, what would you say?
(Peterson’s Answer) I’d tell them that 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. And it is difficult in many ways because your time is not your own, for the most part, and the whole culture is against you. This consumer culture, people grow up determining what they want to do by what they can consume. And the Christian gospel is just quite the opposite of that. And people don’t know that. And pastors don’t know that when they start out. We’ve got a whole culture that is programmed to please people, telling them what they want. And if you do that, you might end up with a big church, but you won’t be a pastor.
May God guard each of our hearts and minds as we lead and shepherd others in our particular cultures.
Dr. Dan Hamil