pastors who are not self-important

i finally finished eugene peterson’s memoir and i am quite moved.  over the next couple of posts, i want to share just a few more thoughts from the book.  and thank you in advance, faithful friends, for indulging me.  i hope these passages bless you

peterson says he “grew up Pentecostal.”  along the way, he “formed an identity that vocationally fused Pentecostal and Presbyterian,” or “presbycostal” as he puts it.

If I were to define what for me makes up the core Pentecostal identity, it is the lived conviction that everything, absolutely everything, in the scriptures is livable.  Not just true, but livable.  Not just an idea or a cause, but livable in real life.  Everything that is revealed in Jesus and the scriptures, the gospel, is there to be lived by ordinary Christians in ordinary times.  This is the supernatural core, a lived resurrection and Holy Spirit core, of the Christian life.

i love that description of pentecostalism.  it resonates with me.

Among the Presbyterians, I was meeting pastors who took seriously the vocation of pastor, persons who knew and valued and loved people in place and over time and seriously in Jesus’s name…I had known men and even a few women, who were addressed as pastor.  But they weren’t pastors in this local and personal way.  My adolescent impression was that they were never interested in the people in our congregation and certainly not in me.  All their attention was either on “the furniture of heaven and the temperature of hell” or dramatic healings and revivals in other cities or countries.  Pastor was an interim position on their way to some more celebrated work or exotic location.

As I became at home in the environment of Presbyterianism, I realized that pastor was a term that carried a certain innate dignity, involved disciplines of learning, demanded attentiveness to the personal details of men and women in pain and doubt, required an understanding not only of what took place on the church premises but also in the workplace and household world of the church members.  I observed pastors…who entered into their vocation as an all-inclusive way of life, not just taking on a religious job.  This was new for me.  I met pastors who were modest, not self-important, not prima donnas, not hungry for attention–pastors who were, well, just pastors.  Pastors who actually like being pastors.  Not all of them, of course, but more often than not.  I felt comfortable in the company of these pastors, and when I myself became one, I knew that I was with men and women I could trust.

I know many wonderful people in Pentecostalism but, in retrospect, not many pastors.  There is a lot of energy in Pentecostalism, exuberance and praise and commitment–the livability in real life–firsthandedness, immediacy.  I wasn’t about to give up any of my Pentecostal identity–but I also realized that I could never be a pastor worth his salt if I couldn’t integrate it into my Presbyterianism, a tradition that put me into a comprehensive speaking relation with all my brothers and sisters in all forms that church takes across the country and through the centuries.  I needed a context for developing patient attentiveness to the ways that holiness develops over a lifetime, which necessarily includes stretches of boredom and pain and suffering, what Dorothy Day named “the long loneliness.”  Pentecostalism and Presbyterianism were for me both irreplaceable gifts, polarities that made a continuum, not opposites in tension. 

wow.  i am really convicted by this.  i’ve not given a lot of thought to the importance of integrating a “comprehensive speaking relation with all my brothers and sisters in all forms that church takes across the country and through the centuries” to my vocation.  i want to “be attentive to the personal details of men and women in pain and doubt.”  i want to be a “pastor worth his salt.”  but i want to retain “the livability in real life–firsthandedness, immediacy.”

i wish my pentecostal colleagues could hear this.  but they probably couldn’t.  we’re a little closed-minded when it comes to considering the benefits of other traditions.

because we are, you know, pentecostal.





2 thoughts on “pastors who are not self-important

  1. Hey, Randy. I’m a Pentecostal minister, one of your colleagues! Unfortunately, I think you are correct about Pentecostals not valuing other traditions. Sometimes I think that is slowly changing, and sometimes not. Blessings my brother!

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