Eugene Peterson has died at the age of 85.
The internet will provide you with plenty of eulogies, should you search them out.
A contemplative presence whose wisdom invited thought and consideration, even when the reader did not agree with his conclusions.
In his collaboration with Marva Dawn, published as the book The Unnecessary Pastor, Peterson identifies the third of three ways in which pastors should be unnecessary – countering the culturally shaped expectations that seek to define a pastor’s role, definitions that are at odds with a biblical expression of the role.
Peterson has already addressed the forces exerted by culture and even the pastor themselves to skew the nature of pastoral practice, and he then turns to the influence congregational expectations can make their contribution.
I don’t the situation Peterson addresses has abated in the twenty years or so since he wrote these words:
3. And we are unnecessary to what congregations insist that we must do and be: as the experts who help them stay ahead of the competition. Congregations want pastors who will lead them in the world of religious competition and provide a safe alternative to the world’s ways. They want pastors who lead. They want pastors the way the Israelites wanted a king — to make hash of the Philistines. Congregations get their ideas of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something zesty and glamorous.
I am in conversation right now with a dozen or so men and women who are prepared to be pastors and who are waiting to be called by a congregation. And I am having the depressing experience of reading congregational descriptions of what these churches want in a pastor. With hardly an exception they don’t want pastors at all — they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won’t have to bother with following Jesus anymore.
The Unnecessary Pastor, Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson, Eerdmans, pg 4