following is my commentary (installment number two) on gene peterson’s memoir, “the pastor.” i cannot begin to express how encouraged i am by peterson’s perspective. beyond gratified, he makes me feel vindicated…like there is someone out there who 1.) is certifiably smart, and 2.) endorses servant leadership.
indulge me while i share a few lines:
North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins. The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepeneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually nonexistent. We are a generation that feels as if it is having to start out from scratch to figure out a way to represent and nurture this richly nuanced and all-involving life of Christ in a country that “knew not Joseph.”
I love being an American. I love this place in which I have been placed–it’s language, its history, its energy. But I don’t love “the American way,” its culture and values. I don’t love the rampant consumerism that treats God as a product to be marketed. I don’t love the dehumanizing ways that turn men, women and children into impersonal roles and causes and statistics. I don’t love the competitive spirit that treats others as rivals and even as enemies. The cultural conditions in which I am immersed require, at least for me, a kind of fierce vigilance to guard my vocation from these cultural pollutants so dangerously toxic to persons who want to follow Jesus in the way that he is Jesus.
peterson speaks to the far-too-common pattern of pastors/congregations leaving one another.
I wonder if at the root of the defection is a cultural assumption that all leaders are people who “get things done,” and “make things happen.” That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into our awareness from the culture–politicians, businessmen, advertisers, publicists, celebrities, and athletes. But while being a pastor certainly has some of these components, the pervasive element in our two-thousand year pastoral tradition is not someone who “gets things done” but rather the person placed in the community to pay attention and call attention to “what is going on right now” between men and women, with one another and with God–this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful “without ceasing.”
being a christ-follower is, by definition, incarnational.
so is pastoring.