Peterson, Eugene H. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids, Mich: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989.
I've served on staff at a long-established church and I've planted a church. Both of these tasks are substantially different than the role of Pastor to a God-given family of Jesus-followers. I was a pastor when I was on the church staff, and all along I've been a pastor as I've worked tirelessly to see a seedling church take to life and get off the ground, but neither of these are the same as where I find myself now: PASTOR. I manage a small staff and I'm still doing the hard work of church planting, but as I'm writing this review, I am very aware of the church family God has tasked me to tend to, provide care for, and feed. It's different. So after a long season of reading discipleship and church planting books, it was time for something different.
I enjoyed Eugene Peter's book, Working the Angles. I've written about it on SaltyBeliever.com and Jared Jenkins and I did an entire Salty Believer Unscripted series around the point of that book. I also enjoyed Peterson's Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Therefore, it didn't take arm-twisting to pick up a copy of The Contemplative Pastor.
As a pastor, I read Peterson's book through the lens of a pastor. In fact, I'm not sure if there's any other lens through which to read this book. It would seem Peterson was writing a book for pastors. And given the nature of the book, I'm not entirely sure I'm qualified to write a review of such a book. Therefore, I'll simply provide a reflection of my thoughts.
I loved this book. I read it slowly. I would read, pause, read some more, and sometimes reread the same section. I underlined specific sections that seemed written directly to me. One specific line reads, "How can I lead people into the quiet place beside still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?" (19). I'm a church planter and I've spend time with church planters, and that sounds like a church planter. I've been a busy church staff member and spend time with them, and that statement sounds about right for a busy church staff member. And I'm a pastor and this statement is true of my trouble.
It's difficult to put a single theme on this book, other than a book of thoughts by a pastor deep in contemplation. In that way, it's a little like Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. I felt as if the third angle of Working the Angles was a little lacking, but also that The Contemplative Pastor is the answer for that book's shortfall. In any case, this is not a quick 'how to pastor' book. It might not even be a good book for a pastor who doesn't yet feel the weight and burden of pastoring of souls. Yes, it's that kind of book.
The interview at the opening of the book was informative but did not fit with the rest of the book. The poetry at the end was a little odd, too. I appreciate Peterson's drive to appreciate words and read poetry, but I would rather look at the poets he suggested. His poetry isn't bad, but I'm not sure if it fit well in this book either. All the pages between the interview and the poetry are excelent.
I enjoyed Peterson's book. I found it rather helpful. It was a much needed and timely perspective. If you're in a place were you could use the timely thoughts of a seasoned pastor, this book might be for you.
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