Working The Angles: pstrmike
At a time when the church continues to encounter pastors whose lives are not consistent with the biblical standard that they admonish their congregants to live, I thought it might be helpful for all of us to give some attention into what pastoral work is, recognizing that some are doing it well, and that there are good constructs for pastors to learn and pattern their ministry from.
Eugene Peterson has written some dynamic works on pastoral ministry that call the pastor into a deeper spiritual life from which become the wellspring of pastoral vocation. While there are many good works on the work of a pastor, Peterson explores the depths of the soul like few others.
I recently started reading Working the Angles, The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Eerdmans Pub. Co., © 1987, reset edition 1993). Peterson wrote this almost 30 years, ago, yet this work rings with prophetic insight into our current American church environment. The book identifies what Peterson considered to be three primary pastoral practices: prayer, scripture reading, and spiritual direction, and how these practices are means by which the pastor should be attentive to God and the work He is doing. Being attentive to the activity of God in these three areas brings us into a deeper relationship with Him. It is from that relationship that we conduct our pastoral vocation.
After reading the first few pages of the introduction, my first thought was, “why haven’t I read this before?” This is a dense book, of which I usually read and reread slowly to provide myself with much to reflect upon. In this case, to identify and apply good pastoral practices within my own pastoral ministry and also in my own spiritual direction practice. That being the case, I will be writing (hopefully every 1-2 weeks), on either my reflections of Peterson’s writings, or simply posting what he wrote to allow you space to think through his work.
This week, I’ll start with the first paragraph (and two sentences from the second) of the introduction to the book, where Peterson identifies some of the primary problems of pastoral work today. As I continue on in this book I’ll share some observations.
“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 stationery 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.
A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted.”
I am hoping that Peterson’s vision will stir us in understanding the vocation of a pastor.