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The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction Paperback – October 22, 1993
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"This excellent treatise on the rediscovery of the authentic purpose of true pastoral care deserves attention, dialogue and action."
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The Contemplative Pastor is broken into three sections. In the first, "Redefinitions," Peterson explored three descriptors for a pastor: unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic. I was recently moved by his description of the "unbusy pastor" in his later memoir The Pastor and had some familiarity with the idea of the apocalyptic pastor. Briefly, in Peterson's thoughts, pastors should be characterized by settledness, margin, and patience, working without frenzy in the day to day life of the church and of the world.
The second section--the longest--is called "Between Sundays". Peterson meaningfully argues that much, if not most, of the work of the pastor takes place from Monday to Saturday. The nine chapters here are built around the beatitudes with an eye toward soul care. Each chapter begins with a poem and then moves into the realities of spiritual direction, exploring themes such as creation, prayer, language, small talk, and suffering.
The final, albeit too brief, final section contains a number of poems about the incarnation. Peterson asked, "is it not significant that the biblical prophets and psalmists were all poets?" To answer his rhetorical question, yes, I believe it is significant. Words matter.Words convey truth, but they also convey beauty.
Like his previous works The Contemplative Pastor by Peterson is a joy to read, whether or not you are a pastor.
I. The Naked Noun
II. The Unbusy Pastor
III. The Subversive Pastor
IV. The Apocalyptic Pastor
V. Ministry amid the Traffic
VI. Curing Souls: The Forgotten Art
VII. Praying with Eyes Open
VIII. First Language
IX. Is Growth a Decision?
X. The Ministry of Small Talk
XI. Unwell in a New Way
XII. Lashed to the Mast
XIII. Desert and Harvest: A Sabbatical Story
The Word Made Flesh
XIV. Poets and Pastors
Among his books, this is my go-to book that grounds me in my calling and prevents me from disillusionment. Love it and highly recommended.
Peterson describes the term "pastor" with three unusual adjectives: un-busy, subversive, and apocalyptic (a chapter is devoted to each term), and then charts a course for shepherding people in the mundane.
Peterson's poetry is sprinkled through the book, concluding with numerous poems at the end. Unfortunately, his poetry is not all that good. To me, it just seemed like the throwing together of pretty words without much rhyme or reason.
But there are some jewels to be mined here - especially Peterson's job description for the un-busy pastor who devotes his time to prayer, bringing messages from God, and listening to his people, his meditation on "the middle voice" in relation to prayer, and his chapter "The Ministry of Small Talk."
I especially appreciated his chapter entitled "The Ministry of Small Talk." There is a place in our busy lives as ministers to discuss more trivial things with other people. Through spending time conversing about smaller issues, we can make larger strides in relationships.
This book is the first one I have read by Peterson. I don't plan for it to be the last. If you are a busy, burdened pastor, it will do you good to read this insightful work.
Now that you've identified that struggle, how do you correct it? Welcome to this book!