“When I observe the way the vocation of pastor is lived out in America and listen to the tone and context in which the word ‘pastor’ is spoken, I realize that what I hear in the word and what others hear is very different. In general usage, the noun is weak, defined by parody and diluted by opportunism. The need for strengthening adjectives is critical. I find I have to exercise this adjectival rehabilitation constantly, redefining by refusing the definitions of ‘pastor’ that the culture hands me, and reformulating my life with the insights and images of Scripture. The essence of being a pastor begs for redefinition. To that end, I offer three adjectives to clarify the noun: unbusy, subversive, apocalyptic.” Eugene Peterson (from Chapter One, The Contemplative Pastor p.23-24)
Without a doubt, the three adjectives (busy, subversive, and apocalyptic) Peterson chooses here to redefine the naked noun ‘pastor’ are certainly ‘out-of-the-box’ kind of words. As a matter of fact, I can’t recall ever reading a leadership book geared for pastors that mentions these three words as being associated with much of anything to do with successful pastoral ministry in America! Can you?
Let me see. If I walked into any Christian bookstore across the fruited plains of North America, or ‘Googled’ on-line, searching for books on successful pastoral ministry, I’m certain I could find ones that uses the three P’s: 1) productive, 2) powerful, and 3) persuasive. Or let’s try the 3-C’s: 1) calculated, 2) charismatic, and 3) convincing. Wait, I know. Let’s type in the 3-E’s: 1) effective, 2) evangelical, and 3) electrifying? Or finally, let’s try the 3-V’s: 1) visionary, 2) vigorous, and 3) van-tastic! Whoops. I kinda made up that last word. Can you tell?
The truth of the matter here is that Peterson’s three adjectives (unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic) just don’t line up well with 3-B thinking, where the successful pastor is to be the guy or gal who builds big BUILDINGS, increases the BUCKS in the bank, and draws in the crowd so there are always more BUTTS in the seats this week than last!
As I see it, this trek through The Contemplative Pastor will be very interesting indeed. I’m curious to see where Peterson takes us on this ride to re-define the noun ‘pastor’ using three unique adjectives that I would never choose in defining my job description to the rest of the world. Already, I can tell this won’t be the typical church-growth, ‘become a stronger leader/CEO’ type of book. Maybe, just maybe, Peterson might open a few eyes, ears, and hearts with his message. I know he certainly has my attention.
How about you?