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Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness Paperback – June 27, 1994

4.6 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
Book 3 of 4 in the Pastoral Series

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About the Author

Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message, a bestselling translation of the Bible, is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Regent College, British Columbia, and the author of over thirty books. He and his wife, Jan, live in Montana.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 206 pages
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 1st Paperback Edition edition (June 27, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802808484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802808486
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am pastor of a United Methodist two-point charge. Two churches. Many headaches. I've been here three and a half years. I am told numerous pastors "start-out" in smaller, typically rural or town churches as mine are. Then we get noticed and we get moved on up the ladder. Better appointment--better pay--more prestige--better location. How many pastors buy into "the ladder"? More than you think. But Peterson does not. This book planted my feet deeply within my call. I wanted to move into bigger, better, different pastorates. Peterson would tell me, "You wanted to go to Tarshish instead of Ninevah." His book forced me to recognize that the grass is not greener in a different parish. Comparing me to Jonah, Peterson left me no excuse of any theological integrity to leave my two-point charge. So here I stay. But Mr. Peterson, if you read this..."Under the Unpredictable Plant" is a horrible title. Few of the dozens of people to whom I have recommended your book can remember that crazy thought.
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Format: Paperback
I have been in lay leadership for over 20 years and this is the most accurate description of Christian ministry I have ever read. How can we avoid being shaped by a congregation's longing for comfortable religiosity yet value lay spirituality? Peterson poses the question then gives us his story, his guts and his heart. I was deeply moved by his challenge to all Christian leaders to form a rule of life equal to our vocations. I plan to read this book again and again.
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Format: Paperback
If you are: (a) a minister, (b) considering
becoming a minister, (c) preparing to preach
through the book of Jonah and/or(d)make up any
combination of the preceding, this book should
be required reading for you.

As you read, prepare to be challenged ("The
religious leader is the most untrustworthy of
leaders: in no other station do we have so many
opportunities for pride, for covetousness, for
lust, or so many excellent disguises at hand to
keep such ignobility from being found out and
called to account." - page 15).

As you read, prepare to glean insights ("The
primary task, the pastor's primary task, is not
communication but communion." - page 192)

As you read, prepare to add substantially to your
quote file ("Prayer is the most deeply human action
in which we can engage. Behavior we have in common
with the animals. Thinking we have in common with
the angels. But prayer - the attentiveness and
responsiveness of the human being before God -
this is human." - page 111) As you read this book,
prepare to be shaped by it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third Peterson book I've read, and one of the five books he has penned for pastors. As the title suggests, this book is developed around the story-line of Jonah whose disobedience and running from God parallel similar sins in pastors. Peterson confronts pastors who do not stay rooted in one place, succumb to the lusts of "ecclesiastical pornography" (see the quote in a review below), and serve up religion to parishioners by making golden calves. His playful prose explores multiple dimensions of the pastoral vocation including prayer, spiritual direction, and cultivating (as a farmer cultivates a field, as opposed to a developer excavating land to build a shopping mall) the top-soil of the congregation. A chapter which meanders through the works of Dostoevsky, gleaning numerous insights into the soul-work of pastors, was especially helpful. I found myself rebuked, refocused, revived, and refreshed in my reading of this book over vacation this year. Just what I needed. The exegesis in Jonah may be strained at a few points, but the pastoral theology is sound and I'm grateful for what I gleaned from this book. I plan to return to it again in the future.
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Format: Paperback
Eugene H Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness (Grand Rapids Eerdmans, 1992)

Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw

In Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson charts the subversive story of Jonah and how it can help pastors develop a spirituality adequate for their calling. He writes with personal honesty and with biblical insight, drawing on decades of pastoral ministry and thoughtful reflection on spiritual theology. I am encouraged by his pastoral heart beating through. His passion for seeing what God is doing in ordinary people and reading and teaching the Bible with awe is contagious. Yet he begins this book describing a pastoral crisis when he was 30 years old, ordained for 4 years, when he encountered a chasm between his faith and his vocation; his life as a Christian and as a pastor. In similar circumstances, many let go of their faith or of their vocation. Peterson determined to hang on to both. He did not want to merely hold on to his religious job, but retain the integrity of his calling as a pastor. He charts his prayerful journey into and out of the depths, following the subversive story of Jonah.

Buying passage to Tarshish

Jonah was my son Ben's favourite Bible story. We sang almost every second night: `Uh oh Jonah, you should've gone to Ninevah'. It's a story retold in Sunday Schools and dissected in theological colleges everywhere; the prototypical journey of the unwilling missionary. It also has lessons for pastors.

When Jonah is called to Ninevah, he responds by going - but in another direction towards Tarshish. Peterson comments Tarshish or any glamorous ministry can be a lie that draws pastors away from their calling.
Read more ›
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