Contemplating Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor

It was announced in the early afternoon on October 22, 2018 that Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible and over 30 other books, including A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, passed from this life to the next. An article released by Christianity Today, announced Peterson’s death under this banner…

Eugene Peterson Has Completed His Long Obedience: The Message author’s family said he joyfully looked toward heaven, saying, “Let’s go.”

I saw that banner and the corresponding picture of Pastor Eugene and began to weep. Through the tears, my mind went back to 2008.

We’d just celebrated the 10th year of our Vineyard church plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Things had been going well over the first decade. But now suddenly, just about everything that was going right the first ten years reversed itself and my church was facing struggles I’d never experienced before. I’ve written a lot about this season of transition, so won’t bore you with the details. But just about the time I was so depressed and feeling hopeless about the pastoral ministry (2011), my pastoral coach suggested I grab a copy of Eugene Peterson’s classic book on pastoral ministry, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction.

Bingo. Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time I needed to hear it.

From that season forward, I’ve become an avid fan of everything Eugene Peterson, even to the point of frustrating some of my friends! But folks, let me say it this way. When God uses a man and his writings to save your life and save the call on my life, how else should I respond? I, for one, will be thankful to Jesus for this man used of God to help and encourage literally thousands and thousands of pastors like me who probably would have given up on pastoral ministry if it weren’t for the writings of Eugene Peterson.

This blog series (first published back in 2011) covering Eugene Peterson’s classic, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, written in 1989, allowed me to process truths about the pastoral ministry I’d never considered. Over 37 blog entries, allow me to share my thoughts on some of those new revelations.


Below, you will find a complete list of all 37 blogs in this series. We suggest that you bookmark this home page for ease of use. Enjoy!

Each one of our blog studies can serve you well as a support piece in your devotional life with Jesus. As you’ll see when you open up one of our pages, each blog begins with a short scripture or reading, some thoughts to consider, and then concludes with a prayer and a question or two for you to ponder. Go slow. Walk at your own pace, inviting the Holy Spirit to join with you as you read and reflect.

Session One.                      An Introduction to our Series.

From the book’s Introduction:

Session Two.                      A Seed-Planter of Well-Doing.

Session Three.                   Job One: Simply Being There.

Session Four.                     Living in the Mature Wholeness of the Gospel.

Session Five.                      Lives Operating in Grace.

Session Six.                       Two Pastors Recognizing Amazing Grace.

Session Seven.                  Speaking God into God-less Situations.

Session Eight.                    And God Then Said, “Let There Be Creativity.”

Session Nine.                     Specific Acts of Christian Subversion.  

Session Ten.                       Forsaking the 3-B’s of Church, Inc.

Session Eleven.                  It’s All About Me. NOT!

Session Twelve.                  Stop Chasing God’s Chickens

From Chapter One:

Session Thirteen.                The Pastor: What’s In the Name?

Session Fourteen.               The Pastor: Give Me Three Words.

From Chapter Two:

Session Fifteen.                  The Unbusy Pastor: Blasphemous Anxiety, Anyone?

Session Sixteen.                 The Unbusy Pastor: Facing Vanity & Laziness.

Session Seventeen.            The Unbusy Pastor: Leading Others Beside Still Waters.

Session Eighteen.               The Unbusy Pastor: Praying. Preaching. Listening.

From Chapter Three:

Session Nineteen.              The Subversive Pastor: Undercover for Jesus.

Session Twenty.                 The Subversive Pastor: Undermining the Kingdom of Self.

Session Twenty-One.         The Subversive Pastor: The Fine Art of Subversion.

Session Twenty-Two.         The Subversive Pastor: Shadow Work.

From Chapter Four:

Session Twenty-Three.       The Apocalyptic Pastor: Thunder & Lightning Anyone?

Session Twenty-Four.         The Apocalyptic Pastor: Avoiding a Career in Religious.

Session Twenty-Five.          The Apocalyptic Pastor: A Man or Woman of Prayer.

Session Twenty-Six.            The Apocalyptic Pastor: Crafting Our Words Carefully.

Session Twenty-Seven.       The Apocalyptic Pastor: Keep Showing Up.

From Chapter Six:

Session Twenty-Eight.         A Pastoral Reformation: The Care & Cure of Souls.

From Chapter Seven:

Session Twenty-Nine.          Praying With Eyes Wide Open.

From Chapter Eight:

Session Thirty.                     Real Church 101. Learning to Practice the Presence of God.

From Chapter Nine:

Session Thirty-One.             Humble Boldness – Bold Humility.

From Chapter Ten:

Session Thirty-Two.             ‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple.

From Chapter Eleven:

Session Thirty-Three.           The Issues of Sin and Sinner.

From Chapter Twelve:

Session Thirty-Four.              The Hireling vs. The Shepherd.

From Chapter Thirteen:

Session Thirty-Five.               Sabbaticals: Not Just for Wimps.

From Chapter Fourteen:

Session Thirty-Six.                Pastors and Poets.

From Chapter Fifteen:

Session Thirty-Seven.           Closing Thoughts.

Don’t take this journey into this series alone! 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 Sustainable Faith-Heartland network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.