The Unbusy Pastor: Blasphemous Anxiety, Anyone?

Today’s Eugene Peterson Quote:

The word ‘busy’ is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective ‘busy’ set as a modifier to ‘pastor’ should sound to our ears like ‘adulterous’ to characterize a wife or ‘embezzling’ to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront. Hilary of Tours diagnosed our pastoral busyness as ‘irreligiosa soicitudo pro Deo’, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for Him.  Eugene Peterson (from Chapter Two, The Contemplative Pastor p.27)

Eugene. Eugene.

Don’t you realize that these kind of thoughts you are beginning your book with are not seeker-friendly to us pastors who are simply trying our very best to be the successful leaders God has asked us to be? How dare you, Eugene, label my busyness in doing God’s work as blasphemous! Don’t you realize, Dr. Peterson, that doing God’s work is serious stuff? Not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be seen as easy labor. I mean, what are you thinking here when you suggest that our busy and very important schedules for Jesus might be characterized alongside the work of an adulterous wife or an embezzling banker?

“Blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for Him.”  Come on, now, sir.

Who in the world, Dr. Peterson, would be so naïve, or so bold, for that matter, to believe that we can do God’s work for Him?

Oh, wait.

Now that you mention it, the Scriptures do seem to be full of stories that tell us that God’s people have this nagging little habit of inserting their personal wills on top of the will of God. Maybe that’s why the Book of Proverbs talks so much about obtaining godly wisdom. Maybe that’s why Solomon states in Proverbs 3:

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart. Don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Maybe that’s why Jesus indicates to His friends (in John 5):

“I’m telling you this straight. The Son can’t independently do a thing, only what He sees the Father doing.”

Maybe that’s why our Lord went on, after His resurrection, to command His disciples to not leave Jerusalem in their own strength (see Acts 1), but wait for the Holy Spirit to descend upon their lives before they go out and try to set up the church of Jesus Christ?


Now that I stop and think about this, maybe Peterson is onto something here. Maybe he’s right when he points out that one of my greatest sins as a pastor might be the overt way I tend to take some instructions from God’s Word, process them through my little pea-brain, and then end up on a trek to fruitless-ness by attempting to get God’s job done in my own strength? Maybe my busyness is just a cover-up for a lot of ‘doing’ that has come right off my blueprint board for instant church success?


Now that I think about this, I’m getting the sense that Peterson just might be revealing how the emperor has no clothes!

If you’re just a bit squeamish about such discussions, maybe you need to go on to the next chapter. I’m afraid this line of thinking just might be offensive to a few of us truly busy, highly-charged pastors! But if you have the stomach for such things, come back again next time and we’ll see how Peterson goes from downright insulting to downright truthfulness!

My prayer: Jesus, in all humility, Eugene Peterson is right in slamming me when I take up my free-will and set out, busily, to do Your work for You. While the phrase ‘busy pastor’ might sound productive at first, the truth is that no one needs to coordinate Your work for You. You are the One in charge, and I need to fully acknowledge that You don’t need me and my busy-ness in order to get something done down here on planet earth! For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How have I taken the word ‘busy’ and made it into a badge of honor? Am I willing to put this adjective down for a moment and listen to reason, as Peterson is calling it out for me?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Contemplative Pastor?

Over a 37-blog series, you and I will take a deeper look at Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our blog series home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to continue to the next blog in this series…

1 thought on “The Unbusy Pastor: Blasphemous Anxiety, Anyone?

  1. Pingback: The Pastor: Give Me Three Words. | The Contemplative Activist

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