Book Review: The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson.


I’ve recently read a book by Eugene Peterson called The Contemplative Pastor, and I have to say, it was a really good read heading into starting up our weekly Bible studies.  Peterson’s perspective on Christian leadership and how we experience and grapple with different aspects of our daily lives was helpful not just for people looking to serve as pastors, but for people involved in ministry in general.  He’s honest about the realities that we experience in our church life, and he is insightful about areas of faith that some may be familiar with via worn-out platitudes.  At the end, he has a few poems because one of the key points he makes in the book is about creativity and how the Christian life is a creative life; God wasn’t content to just be bored, but He created.  If you’re interested in reading a book that challenges what might be perceived as mundane in church living/ministry, I’d suggest giving this book a read for a fresh perspective on all that we are called to as co-workers with Christ.

Here are some quotes that may whet the appetite a little:

  1. “So the congregation is a place where I’m gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings.  Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace or, on the other side, anguish.”
  2. “It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people work hard.  By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing, establishing values and setting goals, other people do it for us; then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation, to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.”
  3. “But prayer is not a work that pastors are often asked to do except in ceremonial ways.  Most pastoral work actually erodes prayer.  The reason is obvious: people are not comfortable with God in their lives.  They prefer something less awesome and more informal.  Something, in fact, like the pastor.  Reassuring, accessible, easygoing.  People would rather talk to the pastor than to God.  And so it happens that without anyone actually intending it, prayer is pushed to the sidelines.”
  4. “In running a church I solve problems.  Wherever two or three are gathered together, problems develop.”
  5. “Most people, most of the time, are not in crisis.  If pastoral work is to represent the gospel and develop a life of faith in the actual circumstances of life, it must learn to be at home in what novelist William Golding has termed the “ordinary universe” – the everyday things in people’s lives – getting kids off to school, deciding what to have for dinner, dealing with the daily droning complaints of work associates, watching the nightly news on TV, making small talk at coffee break.”

In summary, there are so many good reminders in the book, and if anyone from Refresh is wanting to borrow it, just let me know! It’s not super expensive either, so if you’re the type of person who likes to mark up your books (like me), buying this book will not be a waste of your money.

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