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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Pastor: A Memoir
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have been disgusted for years by the "Americanization" of Pastors. I am 52, and have been a member of one "Church" or another all of my life. I've served on far to many "boards", "counsels" and "steering committees".

I can think of only two real "Pastors" out of probably more than a hundred that I have known.

Most "successful" Pastors are anything but. They may be Preachers, Teachers, Motivational Speakers, Salesmen, Showmen and more than a few Charlatans; but darn few Pastors.

Perhaps someone should come up with a new title for the vocation - the American word for Pastor has been so corrupted in our society that it is no longer useful in describing someone who really is!

Pastor Pete nails it.

Ps - I have three family members who are Pastors. After reading Peterson's Memoir - I WILL NEVER AGAIN ASK THEM HOW THEIR CHURCH IS - EXPECTING TO HEAR HOW MANY MEMBERS AND HOW BIG IS THE BUDGET.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
One of my best friends recommended this book to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. In this book, Eugene Peterson explores the vocation of pastor, largely through tracing his own journey as a pastor, from his childhood experiences, through his resignation from his twenty-nine years of pastoring Christ the King Presbyterian in suburban Baltimore, Maryland. At times, this book feels more like an autobiography than a memoir; I think this is because of Eugene Peterson's repeated assertion of his conviction that pastoral ministry is a way of life, rather than just a job, and that much of what pastoral ministry involves is listening to people's stories.

And this leads me to what I think is one of this book's great strengths, and that is that Eugene Peterson does an excellent job of articulating what he believes the pastoral ministry is, as well as making it emphatically clear what he believes pastoral ministry is not. This book also gives a very candid look at what pastoral ministry is like "from the inside," although I imagine there are still layers of his ministry that he didn't reveal, for whatever reasons. Another strength of this book is that it helps readers, especially pastors and would-be pastors, to examine pastoral work as vocation, and to come to a fresh, different, and hopefully a better, understanding of what the pastoral vocation is, what it involves, and what its ultimate purpose is. In addition, this book is very readable--Peterson is an excellent writer, and his writing is at times almost lyrical.

I highly recommend this book to any who are either contemplating pastoral work, who are presently involved in pastoral ministry, or who wish to have a better understanding of what it is that pastors in their community do week in, week out. This book is a must-read for every seminarian and every pastor. I think laypeople who want to have a better understanding of their pastors' jobs would also greatly benefit from this book. Nor is this book limited to those from a Presbyterian background; I think this book would benefit anyone from the Christian tradition (both Protestant and Catholic), and even those from the Jewish tradition, since Peterson reports the observation of a Jewish colleague of his that much of what Jewish rabbis do is similar to what Protestant Pastors do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 19, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Early in his memoir Peterson expresses something that has haunted me all my pastoral life - most people, including pastors, don't understand the pastoral vocation. "North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins....I couldn't help observing that there was a great deal of confusion and dissatisfaction all around me with pastoral identity" (pgs. 4-5). We do understand CEO-styled leaders, marketing research, therapy, managerial techniques, self-help tips and tricks, but we don't understand the role of pastor in the family, in the church, in the community. Thankfully, Eugene Peterson has given us a contemporary guiding light out of this self-imposed darkness.

The subtitle, "A Memoir" is an accurate portrayal of the warp and woof of the text. Peterson does not take the book as an opportunity to write a pastoral theology, though the whole book speaks to a biblical rootedness and a theology of pastoral work. He does not craft a chronological biography, though it does roughly begin with his formative years as a boy in Montana, and ends with deaths of his parents and his career after his pastoral work in Maryland. Each step on the book is his reflection on how God formed his life and lead him to the (then surprising) work of a pastor, and how even after leaving his pulpit in Maryland he continued to pastor a different kind of congregation through his books and the translation of The Message. One of the pleasant surprises along the way for me was the inclusion of his wife, Jan, as part of the pastoral work. Her demeanor and hospitality are attractive qualities in their story, and we forget the role of "pastor's spouse" to our own peril.

I'm not sure this book lends itself to some kind of a formal review, for what I received from it was vocational clarity and encouragement, not technical knowledge. The pastor's job is not dictated to them by the expectations of the surrounding culture, or for that matter from a lot of the evangelical pastoral culture which has become subject to the first pressure. The pastor is unique. Their role is not dictated by clocks and standard measures of success and failure. They lead in worship. They are formed by and strive to form others by the Word of God. Their lives are integrated wholes where the Spirit does His work to connect God's creation and work with His people.

I firmly believe Peterson paints a portrait we need to see. Pastors and congregations need to let it soak in. And, somehow, it needs to become the kind of portrait the world around us sees.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read this book twice (kindle version and audiobook version) in a couple months after it first came out.

The main reason I love reading with Peterson is that his language and purpose are deeper than most other contemporary Christian writing. Peterson has a deep use of language, not that he is difficult to understand, but that he is very careful in his imagery and it takes time to process all that he is saying.

If you have not read any of Eugene Peterson theology books, then this is a good introduction. It is very personal, and gives context to much of the other theological writing. But Peterson also intentionally writes about why he thinks he developed as he did as a pastor, theologian and writer. There are several overlapping themes in this book and his previous book Practice Resurrection. The most important is he focus on stability as a pastor. Peterson started one church and remained pastor there until he left the pastorate to concentrate on The Message Bible, 29 years in total. Over and over I was struck by the number of times he said things like, "and it took me 10 years to come to the understanding that..."

This is spiritual autobiography in the best sense of the word. It gives a sense of how we develop as Christians and how we can develop into our vocation whether we are pastors or not.

I think most pastors will benefit from this, and I have already passed it on to several pastors that are friends and family. I would encourage you to read it and then give that copy (or another) to your pastor. It really is very, very good.

About half way through this second reading I think I understood what Peterson was trying to do in a different way. Peterson, through his own story, is showing us different way to conceive of the role of pastor. That is part of why I liked the book so much the first time I read it. But it is more than simply giving a new language. He is outright rejecting the way that most of us conceive the role of pastor. I had started reading the very good economics book "The Economics of Good and Evil" and was thinking about how the author was deconstructing our ideas about what Economics was capable of explaining. I understood that the book was particularly post-modern, in a very good way, because it was attempting to work through the variety of ways that Economics had been conceived through the texts of ancient and modern literature. Using these texts Sedlacek was able to help us understand the the modern, mathematical, predictive understanding of Economics is not only recent, but just one of many ways that Economics can be conceived. In many ways, this is exactly what Peterson is doing. He is doing it not through a variety of ancient texts, but through his own memoirs. Peterson is helping us, whether parishioner or pastor ourselves, to see that the modern, CEO, pastoral counselor, mega-church Preacher, etc., is but a recent understanding of a role that goes back thousands of years. We do not have to adopt the recent definition, instead we can adopt a different definition, one that is counter-cultural, but that Peterson thinks is more biblical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
like that first breath after being underwater too long--that's the only way i can describe it. peterson has artfully articulated what i've been feeling in my soul after 20-plus years of pastoral ministry. for example:

"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 setachment and perspective. I can't do this by trying harder."

and another:

"You are at your pastoral best when you are not noticed. To keep this vocation healthy requires constant self-negation, getting outof the way. A certin blessed anonymity is inherent in pastoral work. For pastors, being noticed easily develops into wanting to be noticed. Many years earlier, a pastor friend told me that the pastor ego 'has the reek of disease about it, the relentless smell of the self.' I've never forgotten that."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This is perhaps the only book I've read on the vocation of pastoral ministry that made me feel as though there was something noble in it. Most of the endless stream of books about pastoral ministry coming from the various conference circuits of influential mega-pastors fall into one of three categories: glorified spiritual middle management handbooks, guides to religious marketing or snake oil solutions to breathless "everything must change" conundrums. This book actually seems to tap deeper roots of soul care, tunneling under the therapeutic or academic into the genuinely spiritual matters of life and death glowing beneath the everyday of work and family life. After reading it I'm convinced that the genre of memoir may be the only way to write a book on pastoral ministry, since the spiritual journey of the minister is the only resource he or she can ultimately offer fellow pilgrims. I long for my life and vocation to be so rich and suffused with meaning and I'm thankful for more experienced travellers to show me where and how to look for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
There are so many things I loved about this book! The chapter about his first convert made me laugh out loud and I later shared that story with two missionary teachers. I also enjoyed the chapter about building the church, his thoughts on writing, the continuing story of 'this damned church', his friends that helped and encouraged him on his journey, other conversion stories that are very touching, how THE MESSAGE birthed itself, etc.

As always, there are many things to ponder, pour over, return to, and then think about it so more. Pick it up or download it. Worth every penny!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Eugene Peterson is my best friend, even though I have never met him. His Christ exalting writings draw me in and hold me. But as a former pastor who "was killed in a thousand ways" it was wonderful to read how Peterson himself engaged and weathered the storms of ministry. This book is a must read for every pastor who is contemplating throwing in the towel; for every preacher who has succumbed to the temptation of numbers; for every lay person who believes its time for a new pastor; and for anyone who is contemplating pulpit ministry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I finished THE PASTOR with a prayer on my heart, a song in my spirit and a feeling that I had gained a dearly beloved friend named Eugene Hoiland "Skogen" Peterson. With vocations that were at times alarmingly (and blessedly) similar, my respect - no my love - for Eugene Peterson has multiplied. For those of us called into special vocation of serving God and His people, this will arm the young, enourage the discouraged, and refresh the elder warrior. May it be as much of a blessing to you as it is to me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
What a wonderful read! These two copies were for friends...one is a Pastor's wife and the other's sister is a pastor. Whether you are related to a pastor or just know one this is a fabulous insight into what GREAT looks like. I grew up in Pastor Pete's church and I can tell you that all he writes is true and that he is actually even better in real life than in print. I have given this book to every pastor I love and to many friends as well. A gift to all that read it!
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