i am desperately trying to wean myself away from “the pastor” by eugene peterson. it is absolutely filled with blog-worthy nuggets. if you will be patient with me just a little longer, long-suffering readers, we will move on to other topics. i promise.
peterson talks about a time in his pastoral ministry when he had grown overwhelmingly frustrated with the life he had chosen. there was no time for family, for reflection, for recreation. he went to a board meeting and said, “i resign. i don’t want to live like this.”
in response to the question from one of his leaders, “so what do you want to do?” peterson responds:
I want to be a pastor who prays. I want to be reflective and responsive and relaxed in the presence of God so that I can be reflective and responsive and relaxed in your presence. I can’t do that on the run. It takes a lot of time. I started out doing that with you, but now I feel too crowded.
I want to be a pastor who reads and studies. This culture in which we live squeezes all the God sense out of us. I want to be observant and informed enough to help this congregation understand what we are up against, the temptations of the devil to get us thinking we can all be our own gods. This is subtle stuff. It demands some detachment and perspective. I can’t do this by trying harder.
I want to be a pastor who has the time to be with you in leisurely, unhurried conversations so that I can understand and be a companion with you as you grow in Christ–your doubts and your difficulties, your desires and your delights. I can’t do that when I am running scared.
I want to be a pastor who leads you in worship, a pastor who brings you before God in receptive obedience, a pastor who preaches sermons that make scripture accessible and present and alive, a pastor who is able to give you a language and imagination that restores in you a sense of dignity as a Christian in your homes and workplaces and gets rid of these debilitating images of being a ‘mere’ layperson.
I want time to read a story to my daughter.
I want to be an unbusy pastor.
as the story continues, peterson’s leaders asked “so what’s stopping you?” (board members can be so naïve.) they challenged him to let them “run the church.”
and they did.
as a pastor myself, i am moved by this story. if i were to be completely honest, i would say that i long to be the kind of pastor peterson describes, but it doesn’t seem possible to me. or even feasible. and it’s not, i think, because i am unwilling to relinquish my stranglehold on a few of my responsibilities: to me, the problem is expectations.
not from my congregation, they are gracious and understanding.
the crushing expectations come from the weight of what i have allowed “pastor” to become in my life. it seems like people are more needy than they used to be. i have communicated to the people in my community that i am available to them, and they have taken advantage of my offer (i just got off the phone with a guy that needs a mattress). with fewer and fewer people attending church, there are more and more requests for weddings and funerals and hospital visits from people outside of our fellowship.
and this is to say nothing of the insidious pressure i feel to impress my peers.
if there is one lesson i will take from peterson’s book, it is a sentiment expressed in his harangue at that fateful board meeting:
“i can’t do this by trying harder.”