Eugene Peterson - you know, the guy who "wrote" the Bible - authored a book that's probably in my top 5 most significant/helpful books I've ever read. I read Working the Angles 12 years into being a Pastor and I sooooo wished I'd read it years earlier. Like it would have been great to have had a half decent theology of what it is to be a Pastor after I'd come out of college (even if it was probably the finest theological college in Western Europe(!)). When I started in my first Pastorate my head was full of loads of really great North American church leadership stuff (combined with no small amount of the management philosophy I'd been indoctrinated with during my time with Marks & Spencer) but precious little about the heart of what it was to be a Pastor/Elder - shepherd of the flock of Christ.
So 12 years in I was seriously restless..... I needed to know what it was, actually, that I was called by God to do. Anyway, long story short, I read Peterson and he showed me the light. It was one of those massive "Ahaaaa" moments.....so that's it!
From the off it was like....."I can't believe you've said that!" Have a look at his first paragraph:
American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.
Anyway, he goes on to say this:
(Churches) are communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.
That's it...when you boil it all down and strip everything else away, in the final analysis and when all is said and done the role of a Pastor is to keep people attentive to God: he's got to help people to notice Him, His grace, His truth, His glory... And if the Pastor is to keep the people he serves attentive to God then it's essential that he himself keeps attentive. Was it Robert Murray McCheyne, the hugely significant Scottish pastor who died before he was 30, who said that the greatest thing that he could do for his people was to keep close to God...anyway whoever it was, Peterson is saying the same thing... the most urgent call on my time as a Pastor is to keep attentive to God, being alert to Him, seeing what He sees and joining in with what he's doing.
So, hence the Blog. It's an exercise in helping me to keep attentive. My hunch is that to this end it will be really helpful and, maybe, possibly, perhaps, it might help others to do likewise. We'll see.